Top Recommendations for Successful Clery Act Compliance

Recommendations Checklist for Clery Act Compliance

One night in 1986, several residence hall doors were propped open at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. While propping the doors was intended to allow residents easier access to their dorms, it also allowed Josoph Henry, a sophomore who lived off campus, to enter after a night of drinking. Henry entered an unlocked dorm, where freshman, Jeanne Clery, was sleeping. She had left the door unlocked for her roommate. When Clery woke up to Henry going through her things, he brutally raped and murdered her.

Clery’s parents were shocked to learn of the number of violent crimes that had occurred on campus at Lehigh University in the three years prior to their daughter’s murder; none of which were disclosed to students or their families. They were also concerned with the lack of security on campus.

As a result, the Clery’s began advocating for stronger legislation to make campuses transparent and accountable. In 1990, Congress enacted the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990, which amended the Higher Education Act of 1965. This act required all postsecondary institutions participating in Title IV student financial assistance programs to disclose campus crime statistics and security information. The act has been amended several times. The 1998 amendments renamed the law the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. However, it is generally referred to as the Clery Act. The most recent amendments were a result of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013.

The Clery Act has the following requirements:

  • Annual security report
  • Crime statistics
  • Timely warnings and emergency notifications
  • Crime log
  • Emergency response and evacuation procedures
  • Missing student notification policies and procedures
  • Programs to prevent dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking
  • Procedures for institutional disciplinary action in cases of alleged dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking

Of course, each of these requirements have their own very detailed requirements. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education has published several iterations of a handbook as a tool to assist in complying with the Clery Act. The 2016 edition was rescinded in 2020 and replaced with a new appendix to the Financial Student Aid Handbook. This was a drastic change, as the 2016 edition was 265 pages while the new appendix is only 13 pages. There have been rumors floating around since last fall that there are plans to release updated guidance, but this has continued to be postponed.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid enforces the Clery Act through program reviews, which may be initiated by a complaint, significant media events, or a review selection process. Civil monetary penalties may be imposed for violations of the Clery Act. Effective January 25, 2024, the maximum Clery Act civil monetary penalty is $69,733 per violation.

So, what are some steps your institution can take to ensure compliance with this complex federal law?

  1. Designate an individual as the Clery Compliance Coordinator.

    Regardless of their title, it is beneficial to have a designated individual that oversees Clery compliance at your institution. Although this is not required by the Clery Act, previous program reviews have resulted in fines against institutions for lack of administrative capability. This designated individual should participate in regular Clery Act training to stay knowledgeable and up to date on any changes. They should become your institution’s subject matter expert on the Clery Act. While they may not be the only individual working to achieve compliance, they will be the one directing other individuals or departments to ensure each Clery Act requirement is met. Consider having them be in charge of designating and training your Campus Security Authorities (CSAs). They can also chair your institution’s Clery Act committee (hint, if you don’t have one, create one!).

  2. Implement a Clery Act Compliance Policy.

    If your institution does not currently have a policy related to Clery Act compliance, consider implementing one. Aside from setting forth that your institution will comply with the Clery Act, include the specific procedures your institution will follow to ensure compliance. Include which individuals or departments are responsible for certain aspects of Clery compliance (for example, the police department is responsible for the crime log, or student affairs is responsible for the missing student notification policies and procedures). This is particularly helpful if you have multiple campuses. You can also include CSA responsibilities, crime reporting procedures, policies for preparing the annual disclosure of crime statistics, etc. Also be sure to give your Clery Compliance Coordinator authority to carry out their responsibilities.

  3. Audit your institution’s Annual Security Report.

    It is easy to fall into the habit of reusing last year’s ASR and just making minor adjustments. However, when is the last time you reviewed your entire ASR to ensure you have each Clery Act requirement within it and that your institution is in fact doing what it says it does? If you have not done this recently, or you are new to Clery responsibilities, how do you know that your institution is actually in compliance? Another important consideration is whether your institution has separate campuses. If so, are you publishing a separate ASR for each campus? If not, are you clearly differentiating each campus’s policies and statistics within your single ASR? While it may be time consuming, an audit is a great way to keep your institution in compliance.

  4. Review and revise existing policies and procedures.

    If you audit your ASR, this step will occur naturally. Since the ASR includes institutional policy statements, you will learn if any of your policies and procedures do not meet the Clery Act requirements. You also may learn that your institution does not have an actual policy, but only the statement within your ASR. Institutional policy approval processes can be lengthy, so start working on this now. However, it is not enough to simply confirm your institution has the policies in place; your institution must also be following its policies. Speak with the individuals or departments with certain Clery Act responsibilities to see if they are following the policy.

  5. Create a Clery geography map and buildings/property list.

    While determining which geographic category some of your buildings and properties fall under may be simple, others will be more complicated depending on how they are used. Take the time to categorize your buildings and properties. Create a buildings/properties list and consider creating a map. It will be beneficial to you when determining crime statistics, what needs to be added to the crime log, and issuing timely warnings. A map outlining your institution’s Clery geography can also greatly assist in showing your campus community the areas in which reported Clery crimes are occurring.

    Your buildings/properties list should include the building name, address, and geographic category. You can also include other helpful information, such as if the property is owned or leased by your institution, the dates, and what the property is used for.

    Your map should include on campus buildings and properties, on campus residential facilities, non campus buildings and properties (such as student organization housing), and public property. Consider color coding the map based on what geographic category the building or property falls under. If your institution has separate campuses, make sure to create a separate map for each campus.

    Make sure to review your list and map annually and adjust as needed. Work with your real estate department to know when the institution buys, sells, and leases property.

  6. Train your Campus Security Authorities.

    Being designated a CSA is meaningless if the person does not know what that means. While CSA training is not required by the Clery Act, it is recommended in the 2016 handbook. The training should be tailored to your institution and explain the role and responsibilities of a CSA, Clery crime definitions, Clery geography, how to submit reports, and the importance of timely reporting.

Institutional Compliance Solutions provides training and consulting on Clery Act compliance. Contact us for more information.