Know Your Legislation: The Clery Act

Know Your Legislation: The Clery Act

The Clery Act—or The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, for the notably less concise but full title—is a landmark piece of legislation as far as public disclosure of college campus crime is concerned. It was signed into law in 1990, mandating that all colleges and universities that take part in federal financial aid programs track, record, and disclose crimes committed on or near their campuses.

The Clery Act’s Namesake

The pivotal legislation is named after Jeanne Clery. She was a 19-year-old student at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania who was sexually assaulted and killed by another student, Josoph M. Henry, in 1986. The horrendous crimes took place in her dorm on campus.

This was the 38th violent crime to go on record at the university in three years, but at the time, such information was closely guarded from the public. Clery’s parents successfully sued Lehigh University, receiving $2 million in damages, on the premise that they would never have allowed their daughter to attend the school if they’d been aware of its dismal violent crime track record. Her parents used the money awarded them to found the nonprofit organization Clery Center for Security on Campus.

Provisions of The Clery Act 

Key requirements laid out by this federal legislation include: 

  • Publishing an Annual Campus Security Report and sending it to current and prospective employees and students; it must include crime statistics from the past three years, safety and security policy statements, descriptions of campus security initiatives, and official procedures for investigating and prosecuting sexual assault allegations
  • Maintaining readily accessible, detailed crime logs through the campus police/security department that include all known alleged crimes in the past 60 days; older crimes must be archived for at least 7 years and be made available upon request within 2 business days
  • Keeping the last 8 years’ worth of data on the occurrence of aggravated assault, arrest, arson, burglary, drug-related violations, hate crimes, liquor law violations, motor vehicle theft, murder, robbery, sex offenses, and weapons possession
  • Issuing timely warnings about crime threats to students and/or employees (pertaining to the crimes named in the Clery Act) 

Violations of The Clery Act 

The U.S. Department of Education is responsible for monitoring compliance with The Clery Act. Each individual infraction can be fined up to $35,000 in civil penalties, and colleges and universities found in violation can be suspended from federally run student financial aid programs. 

The most famous violation and highest related fines to date were at Eastern Michigan University in 2008. Fines imposed totaled $357,500 following the 2006 murder of student Laura Dickinson by another student. The incident resulted in sweeping policy changes at the school, as well as high-ranking personnel changes including the firing of university president John A. Fallon.

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Sheri Heitker Dixon is the founder of Keep Her Safe, a non-profit organization committed to making college campuses safe from sexual assault.

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