Clery Act FAQs

Learn About the Clery Act

Posted on 6 March 2015 |


1. What is the Clery Act?

The Clery Act requires campuses and universities to disclose information about crimes committed on and around their campuses. The law is enforced by the U.S. Department of Education. Compliance with the law is linked to a school’s ability to participate in federal student financial aid programs. It was original known as the Campus Security Act, but its name was changed in 1998 in memory of Jeanne Clery.

The Clery Act is formally known as the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (20 USC § 1092(f)). This law has been amended a few times between 1992 and 2013 to expand provisions to grant certain basic rights for victims of campus sexual assault, protect crime victims and “whistleblowers” from retaliation, and provide guidelines for handling campus emergency response and registered sex offender notifications. The Clery Act ensures that students, employees, the campus community, and parents are aware of public safety and crime prevention matters.

Learn more about our comprehensive Campus SaVE Act/Clery Act training solutions

While the Clery Act is frequently mentioned in connection with sexual assault, the act covers seven major categories of crime: murder and manslaughter, sex offenses (rape, fondling, incest, and statutory rape), robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, vehicle theft, and arson. The 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) amended the Clery Act and added domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking to the list of sex offenses. VAWA was renewed in 2000, 2005 and again in 2013. Since some crimes are handled with internal disciplinary action instead of police involvement, schools are also required to report statistics for liquor and drug law violations, illegal weapons possession, and several subsets of hate crimes.

2. Who was Jeanne Clery?

Jeanne Clery was a 19-year-old student at Lehigh University when she was raped and murdered in her dorm room in 1986. The man who attacked her was a fellow student that she did not know prior to the attack. The school had not informed students or parents of the 38 violent crimes that had occurred on campus in the three years before the murder. Because students were unaware of the threats around them, they commonly propped open the automatically locking doors to residence halls. This is how Jeanne Clery’s attacker gained access to her dorm. He is now serving life in prison without parole.

Appalled at the security issues on the Lehigh campus, Jeanne’s parents decided to do something about it. In 1987, her parents Howard and Connie Clery founded a nonprofit organization to improve campus security. Their work resulted in the federal Campus Security Act, which took effect in 1991. It was renamed the Jeanne Clery Act in 1998.

3. How does the Clery Act relate to Title IX, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and the Campus SaVE Act?

While each of these is its own law, with its own requirements for schools, they work together to help create a safer campus environment. Title IX began as a civil rights law preventing discrimination on the basis of sex in education. This has many applications, including protecting students from having to endure a hostile educational environment due to sexual harassment and violence. The Clery Act supports this aim by promoting transparency and awareness of campus crime, increased and accurate reporting of incidents, and providing readily available information on these statistics.

VAWA amended the Clery Act to include the disclosure of statistics regarding incidents of dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking since these present ongoing forms of threat and harassment of students and are forms of sexual violence. The Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act is the newest of the laws, and it updates the Clery Act to take a much stronger approach to handling sexual misconduct on campuses. The SaVE Act expands victims’ rights under the Clery Act, sets minimum standards for institutions’ disciplinary procedures for offences in the Clery categories, and requires schools to provide education for students and employees on sexual violence prevention and awareness. Learn more about the SaVE Act here.

4. What does the Clery Act require of colleges and universities?

The Clery Act requires institutions to gather and report statistical data about crimes committed within the campus community. They must publish an annual security report which documents three calendar years of campus crime statistics, outlines security policies and procedures, and gives information on the rights guaranteed to victims of sexual assault. This report must be made available to all current and prospective students and employees. The crime statistics gathered for the report must be reported to the U.S. Department of Education.

Under the law, schools also have to maintain a public crime log. They have to issue prompt warnings about crimes that fall into one of the seven categories outlined in the Clery Act, providing they pose a serious or ongoing threat to students and employees. These warnings have to be given in a manner that is likely to reach all members of the campus community. Schools must also have an emergency response plan, notification system, and testing policy. The plan must be included in the annual security report and the emergency response procedures must be tested annually. If a school has on-campus housing, they must report fires that occur in the housing, maintain a public fire log, and create an annual fire report. Finally, institutions must generate policies and procedures to handle reports of missing students.

5. Who has to be trained? What are their responsibilities?

A wide variety of people at every college and university have to be trained on their responsibilities under the Clery Act. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) mandates that “responsible employees” are trained under Title IX, and this extends to Clery Act training since it is built on the foundation of Title IX. According to OCR, a responsible employee is any employee who has the authority to take action to redress sexual harassment or misconduct; who has been given the duty of reporting incidents of sexual harassment, misconduct, or any other student misconduct to the appropriate school authority; or who a student reasonably believes has this authority or duty.

Campus security employees, health workers, counselors, faculty and advisors, people who oversee residence halls, and even volunteers for designated student organizations can fall under the umbrella of “responsible employees.” If an employee is a mandatory reporter, they must be notified by the school. These people are required to collect and report aggregate data if an incident is reported to them. This covers the time, date, location, and nature of the occurrence. They are not to release any identifying information about the student without the student’s permission. Employees who complete Clery Act training will have a full understanding of what is required of them. They should also be trained in the school’s procedures for handling occurrences and be knowledgeable about support and resources for victims.

6. Does the Clery Act only apply to crimes committed on campus?

The Clery Act applies to a variety of places that fall within something called “Clery Geography.” The campus itself is included, as are buildings the school uses to further its educational mission, even if they are not within the main geography of the campus. Also included are on-campus spaces that the school may not own or operate, such as third party food service or residence halls. Student housing is its own category of on-campus place and includes places like dormitories, married student housing, faculty and staff housing owned or operated by the school, summer school housing, and housing for official and unofficial student organizations like sorority and fraternity houses. These fall into “Clery Geography” even if they are adjacent to the campus and not on school property.

It also applies to certain off-campus locations, depending on their association with the school and physical proximity to the campus. Offenses that occur in the context of a school’s academic, athletic, extracurricular, educational, or any other program or activity – no matter where that activity is taking place – must be reported by the school if they fall into one of the crime categories in the Clery Act. There are additional provisions and requirements if the crime is sexual in nature, requiring sexual violence to be reported even if it didn’t happen within the context of a school activity.

There are a few other categories of places that count as “Clery Geography.” Off-campus buildings and other properties the school uses for educational purposes, as well as places that are owned or controlled by recognized student organizations, such as fraternity and sorority houses or student religious centers. Public property adjacent to property the school owns, controls, or uses for educational purposes, such as sidewalks, streets, and parking facilities all fall into a school’s area for required reporting.

7. How anonymous is reporting under the Clery Act?

The Clery Act mandates that aggregate data is collected and reported – date, time, approximate location of the occurrence, and the nature of the incident. While personally-identifiable information may be taken as part of the information collected during an incident being investigated, it is not part of what is reported for Clery compliance. Details that could identify the student are not disclosed to the school without the student’s consent. Under the Clery Act, even people who are mandatory reporters are specifically not required to disclose personal information.

8. Are there confidential sources for help for students who have been victims of sexual violence? Do they have to report Clery data?

Some counselors are exempt from having to report incidents, namely professional and pastoral counselors. They can offer completely confidential support exempt from the obligation to report. However, schools are strongly encouraged to establish confidential voluntary means for these counselors to report incidents for inclusion in the annual crime statistics.

Other people who provide support and assistance to victims, such as campus safety officers, advocates, health center employees, and volunteers are required to collect aggregate data about the incident, but they are not required to report incidents, without the victim’s permission, that identifies the student in any way.

9. Does reporting an assault mean that a charges have to be filed with the police?

No. Reporting is not the same as filing charges. A victim can report an occurrence, receive assistance and counseling, and exercise their rights under the Clery Act without ever having to file formal charges with the police. Students may even go through their school’s disciplinary channels without filing formal charges against someone.

10. Does someone have to be arrested for a crime or convicted before it is reported for Clery Act compliance?

No. The crime will be reported for Clery purposes whether or not charges are filed, even if nobody is ever arrested or convicted for committing it.

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