The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (more simply known as the Clery Act), is a federal law that requires all colleges and universities across the United States to disclose information about crimes occurring on and around their campuses. The Clery Act is named after Jeanne Ann Clery, a Lehigh University student who was tortured, raped, and murdered in her campus residence hall room in April 1986. After the murder of their daughter, Jeanne’s parents discovered that Lehigh University had failed to report almost 40 violent crimes that had taken place on or near the campus during the three years before Jeanne’s murder. Along with other crime victims and their families, Jeanne’s parents testified in front of Congress in an effort to remedy this situation. Their lobbying helped lead to the passage of the Clery Act, which was originally known as the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990.
Officially signed into law by President George H. W. Bush in 1990, the Clery Act requires all colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs to abide by the law. Due to this provision, most institutions of higher education, both public and private, are held responsible under the Clery Act. The Clery Act is enforced by the U.S. Department of Education, which has the power to impose different levels of penalties on all institutions found in violation of the Clery Act. Examples of penalties include a $27,500 fine for each violation and suspension from participating in federal student financial aid programs.
The Clery Act has four main requirements. The first is the requirement to submit an annual security report by October 1 of each year. This report must detail crime statistics for the previous three years, security policies, crime prevention programs, and procedures used by the university during an alleged sexual offense case. Institutions must make the report easily accessible to current students, prospective students, and staff. The second requirement of the Clery Act demands that the police or security department of the university keep a crime log of all crimes reported to or witnessed within the past 60 days. Also, information older than 60 days must be made available within two days if requested, and the crime logs must be kept for seven years.
The Clery Act’s third requirement calls for the university to issue timely warnings of crimes that threaten the safety of the university community. Policies on timely warnings must be published in the annual security report. Finally, the fourth requirement of the Clery Act states that each institution must keep crime statistics for areas in and around the campus for the previous three years. Institutions must report homicides, aggravated assaults, robberies, arson, burglary, sexual offenses, vehicle thefts, and arrests related to drugs, alcohol, or weapons. These crimes must be reported both in the annual security report and to the U.S. Department of Education.
The Clery Act has been amended a total of three times. In 1992, a requirement that all institutions give victims of sexual assault specified basic rights was added. In 1998, the reporting requirements were expanded and the act was officially named in memory of Jeanne Clery. In 2000, the legislation was amended to require that institutions inform the campus community about Megan’s Law and where the information about registered sex offenders living in the campus area can be found.
Since the passage of the Clery Act, significantly more information on crime has been made available to campus communities throughout the United States. Even so, there have been a number of problems with this law. Many institutions are reluctant to publish crime information, as it is akin to a negative marketing campaign for the institution. Universities, not surprisingly, want to advertise their campuses as safe learning environments. Also, it has been reported that the Department of Education has failed to provide adequate direction to institutions on compliance and that many institutions are confused by a lack of clarity in the Clery Act. As a result of these problems, many institutions throughout the years have been in violation of the Clery Act, yet few have been penalized. Significant progress has been made since the Clery Act was passed, but more remains to be done. With a large percentage of serious crimes occurring on campus communities, campus crime remains a persistent problem.
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