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What College Students Need to Know About the Clery Act

By The Editorial Team

The Clery Act is designed to ensure that campus crime statistics are available to students and their parents who are choosing a college or university.

History of the Clery Act

The Clery Act is a federal law was signed in 1990 and amended in 2008 to protect crime victims, whistle-blowers and other individuals from retaliation. The act is named after Jeanne Clery, a 19-year-old Lehigh University student who was raped and murdered in her residence hall in 1986. The law was largely the result of the efforts of her parents, Connie and Howard Clary, who founded the non-profit Clery Center for Security on Campus.

The law requires U.S. colleges and universities to disclose information about crime on their campuses and nearby. Colleges and universities that fail to supply campus crime statistics can be fined and suspended from participation in the federal financial aid program.

Clery Act requirements

The Clery Act requires that colleges and universities furnish campus crime statistics through a number of steps:

Publishing an annual security report

The report must document three calendar years of select campus crime statistics. These include security policies and procedures, plus information on the rights guaranteed to sexual assault victims.

Maintaining a public crime log

Schools with a police or campus security force must maintain a public crime log detailing the facts on each crime. Staff members must enter information within a specified time period and make the log available to the public.

Disclosing crime statistics

Institutions must report incidents that occur on campus, in unobstructed public areas adjacent to or on campus and at specified non-campus facilities such as remote classrooms and Greek housing. The Clery Act requires reporting crimes in seven categories:

  • Criminal homicide, including murder and manslaughter
  • Sex offenses
  • Robbery
  • Aggravated assault
  • Certain types of burglary
  • Motor vehicle theft
  • Arson

Educational institutions must report statistics on violations of liquor, drug and weapons laws. They also must detail any hate crimes.

Issuing timely warnings about threats

The threat could affect students or employees. The law differentiates between a timely warning and an emergency notification.

Implementing emergency response procedures

The policy includes a number of types of emergencies and dangerous situations. One example is an outbreak of an infectious disease.

Compiling and reporting fire data

Schools submit a report similar to their crime logs.

Implementing missing-student reports

Institutions must have a process for generating reports when a student has been missing for 24 hours.

How to use Clery Act information

Prospective students can look at the campus crime statistics reported for colleges in which they’re interested, thanks to a data analysis tool offered by the Office of Post-secondary Education of the U.S. Department of Education. The reports it generates also include fire data.

The agency notes that crime statistics include only the reports of crimes committed, not prosecutions or convictions. Because the information was provided by educational institutions instead of law enforcement staff, the data aren’t directly comparable to information from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting System.

Reports submitted under the Clery Act provide useful information seldom seen in recruiting material. Knowing that a school is in compliance with the act is also reassuring to students counting on federal financial aid to complete their degrees.

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