Campus Security Policy May Simplify Clery Act

Security Info Watch:New legislation could replace Clery Act

Sen. Claire McCaskill - Speak out on Cleary Act Replacement


Photo credit: (Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/United States Senate)


July 13–During the first half of 2015, a U.S. senator from Missouri has been making news — at least, in higher education circles — about her dissatisfaction with federal campus safety statutes.

Sen. Claire McCaskill has called the Clery Act — or the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act — “flawed” and “a mess.” She has introduced pending legislation in the Senate called the Campus Safety and Accountability Act, intended to supplant or simplify Clery.

Any college or university taking part in federal financial aid programs must comply with the Clery Act. Institutions must track and release crime statistics recorded on or near campus. The Department of Education handles oversight, and can levy fines of up to $35,000 for noncompliance, or suspend a school’s participation in aid programs.

At Northeastern State University, Clery compliance includes an annual crime stats report released on Oct. 1 for the previous fiscal year.

“The Clery Act was designed to give parents, students and community members a resource for researching crime on campus,” said Patti Buhl, NSU director of public safety. “In its current state, it has become cumbersome and awkward. Consulting firms have been created to interpret how agencies should comply with frequent changes to the act. However, it has gotten so complicated that they also are confused.”

Though she did not call for Clery to be scrapped, Buhl said the campus police department would find some adjustments helpful.

“Perhaps the Department of Education could provide funding for Clery compliance personnel and their training,” she said. “In addition to providing clear, concise direction on how to comply, the DOE could also work on making reports more user friendly. For instance, if links to policies could be provided rather than listing entire policies, it would make it easier to read.”

Speaking at the Campus Safety National Forum on June 25, McCaskill said CASA could provide “more due process, real accountability and access to a confidential adviser for sexual assault victims.” Advisers would explain prosecutorial and Title IX options to victims.

Before introducing CASA, McCaskill instigated a nationwide sexual assault study canvassing 440 college campuses. The data indicated that athletic departments were involved in 22 percent of investigations, and a third of campus police departments had no sexual assault response training.

The study also revealed that 40 percent of colleges hadn’t investigated a sexual assault in the previous five years. McCaskill suggested such a statistic shouldn’t be possible.

Countering the senator’s claims, the Clery Center pointed to the information now available to students and parents, including crime statistics and the ability of universities to warn of dangers on campus.

Institutions of higher learning have been critical of Clery’s noncompliance penalties, but CASA would raise the maximum to $150,000. It would not demand the recording or publication of crime stats, but would require the hiring of advisers.

As the law stands, colleges and universities must publish their crime statistics, and NSU’s are available online at Cleary Act.

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