The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, commonly called the Clery Act, is a federal law enacted in 1990 for the purpose of providing college and university students with important information about campus crime and security policies at the higher education institutions they attend. This entry reviews the purpose and provisions of the act and the amendments to it as well as the limited litigation that has dealt with it.
Purposes of the Clery Act
As one scholarly commentary described the Clery Act, the law’s main goal
was to ensure that when selecting an [institution of higher education] to attend, current and prospective students, as well as their parents, would be able to obtain accurate “official” statistics about how much crime had occurred on a respective [college or university] campus.
In addition, students and their parents “could gain knowledge of the security procedures that each school had in place. This information would then allow students and their parents to weigh crime issues when making college enrollment decisions” (Fisher, Hartman, Cullen, & Turner, 2002, pp. 63–64).
All postsecondary institutions that participate in federal student aid programs are required to comply with the Clery Act. The law’s passage was due in large part to the efforts of Howard and Connie Clery, whose daughter Jeanne was raped and murdered in her dormitory room at Lehigh University in 1986. Originally titled the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990, the law was renamed in 1998 to commemorate Jeanne Clery.
Provisions of the Act
Under the law, officials at higher education institutions are required to collect and publish crime statistics pertaining to certain types of crime that occur on campus and in adjacent areas and noncampus buildings, including fraternity and sorority houses. Specifically, officials are required to report annually about crime activity that occurred during the preceding calendar year and the two preceding calendar years.
The Clery Act lists the following crimes or campus disciplinary offenses that are covered by the law’s reporting provisions: murder, forcible and nonforcible sex offenses, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, manslaughter, arson, and “arrests or persons referred for campus disciplinary action for liquor law violations, drug-related violations, and weapons possession” (20 U.S.C. § 1092(f)(1)(F)(i)). Institutional officials are also required to collect and disseminate information about hate crimes that result in bodily injury if “the victim is intentionally selected because of the actual or perceived race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or disability” (20 U.S.C. § 1092(f)(1)(F)(ii)).
As originally enacted, the Clery Act required only that officials at colleges and universities report crimes that occurred on their own campuses. However, the law was subsequently amended to require officials to report crimes that occur in certain noncampus buildings or on noncampus property as well as crimes that take place in certain public areas that are adjacent to a reporting institution. The law defines “noncampus building or property” as meaning “any building or property owned or controlled by a student organization recognized by the institution,” as well as
any building or property . . . owned or controlled by [the institution] that is used in direct support of, or in relation to, the institution’s educational purposes, is used by students, and is not within the same reasonably contiguous geographic area of the institution. (20 U.S.C. § 1092(f)(6)(A)(ii))
Institutional officials are also required to report about crimes that occur on “public property,” which the act defines as
all public property that is within the same reasonably contiguous geographic area of the institution, such as a sidewalk, a street, or thoroughfare, or parking facility, and is adjacent to a facility owned or controlled by the institution if the facility is used by the institution in direct support of, or in a manner related to the institution’s educational purposes. (20 U.S.C. § 1092(f)(6)(A)(iii))
One of the most important provisions of the Clery Act is the law’s requirement that officials at higher education institutions give their campus communities “timely warnings” of any criminal activity on campus that may pose an ongoing threat to campus employees or students. As a result of this legal requirement, officials at colleges and universities now commonly notify campus students and employees of crime incidents that pose an ongoing threat to students and employees by a variety of methods, including the student newspaper, dormitory bulletins, and e-mail alerts.
The Clery Act requires higher education institutions that operate police or security departments to maintain public crime logs that describe “any crime that occurred on campus or within the patrol jurisdiction of the campus police or the campus security department and is reported to the campus police or security department.” The Clery Act specifies that logs should include information about the “nature, date, time, and general location of each crime” and the outcome of any investigation of the crime if the outcome is known. The logs must be updated with regard to crime incidents within two business days after a new incident occurs.
College and university officials who are responsible for maintaining crime logs must make them available to students, campus employees, parents, and the press during normal business hours. All logs of campus crime incidents must remain open for 60 days after events occur. After the 60-day period expires, logs must be made available on request within two business days of when requests are made.
Amendments to the Clery Act
In 1992, the Clery Act was amended to identify certain basic rights for victims of sexual assaults, including students who were victims of date rape. The 1992 amendment, which was titled the Campus Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights and is sometimes referred to as the Ramstad Act, requires officials at colleges and universities to notify sexual assault victims of their right to file criminal charges with local law enforcement authorities. Moreover, the sexual assault provision requires institutional officials to notify victims about college or university counseling services that are available and about the importance of preserving evidence of sexual assault in the event of subsequent criminal proceedings. In addition, the 1992 amendment requires officials at higher education institutions to allow both the accuser and the accused to have others present at on-campus disciplinary hearings involving sexual assault allegations and to notify the accuser of the outcome of any on-campus disciplinary proceeding involving sexual assault accusations. Officials in higher education institutions must also inform sexual assault victims of available options for changing their academic schedule or living arrangements (20 U.S.C. §1092 (f)(8)).
In the wake of the tragedy at Virginia Tech University in 2007, Congress amended the Cleary Act again in 2008. The 2008 amendment added a “campus emergency response plan” provision to the act and requires higher education institutions to “immediately notify” the campus community of a campus emergency unless notification would compromise efforts to respond effectively to the emergency. In addition, the 2008 amendment added a “whistleblower” provision to protect individuals from retaliation for actions taken pursuant to the Cleary Act while expanding on the list of the types of threats that require notification.
Since its enactment in 1990, the Clery Act has been the subject of very little published litigation. Havlik v. Johnson & Wales University (2007) is the only published case at the federal appellate level that has discussed the Clery Act in any detail. In that case, Christopher Havlik sued a Rhode Island university after university officials released a crime report stating that he had been involved in a sidewalk altercation with another student and that it had been reported that he had a knife in his possession during the incident. Prior to the report’s release, a university disciplinary hearing concluded that Havlik had violated university policy by his conduct but did not find that he had possessed a knife during the incident. Havlik was later acquitted by a jury of assault charges that arose from the incident.
Havlik sued the university and a variety of officials for defamation, claiming that the crime incident report was false. A federal trial court dismissed the case on the ground that the university enjoyed a qualified immunity under Rhode Island law to publish the crime incident report based on its reasonable belief that it was obligated by the Clery Act to do so. On appeal, the First Circuit affirmed the dismissal in favor of the university.
See also Cyberbullying.
- Fisher, B. S., Hartman, J. L., Cullen, F. T., & Turner, M. G. (2002). Making campuses safer for students: The Clery Act as a symbolic legal reform. Stetson Law Review, 32, 61–89.
- Security on Campus, Inc. (n.d.). Complying with the Jeanne Clery Act. Retrieved February 11, 2009, from http://www.securityoncampus.org/index.php?...d=271&Itemid=81
- Campus Sexual Assault Victims’ Bill of Rights, Pub. L. No. 102-325, § 486(c) (1992).
- Havlik v. Johnson & Wales University, 509 F.3d 25, 35 (1st Cir. 2007).
- Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1092(f).