Since 1992, colleges and universities which receive federal funding are required to collect and disclose information about criminal activity both on campus and off campus. 20 U.S. Code § 10929(f) lays out the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act). The Act was passed in 1991 in response to a college student who was brutally raped and murdered in her college dorm room at Lehigh University, which is located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, about 90 minutes outside of Philadelphia.
Policies & Procedures – Dealing with Campus & Off Campus Crime
Under subsection (f), Disclosure of campus security policy and campus crime statistics, colleges and universities which receive federal funding must comply with certain requirements in developing policies and procedures regarding:
- reporting of criminal actions on campus,
- the institution’s response to such reports,
- security and access to campus buildings, facilities, residence halls, etc.
In addition, colleges and universities subject to the Clery Act must develop policies and procedures relating to campus security personnel, and any relationship to local law enforcement agencies, including how reports of criminal activity will be handled.
Policies & Procedures – Providing Notice to Students and School Employees
In addition to developing policies and procedures, colleges and universities must also develop programs to inform students and employees about campus security issues. In addition, the Clery Act requires a program which informs students and employees about the prevention of crime. Failure to comply with the Clery Act may result in civil penalties.
Policies & Procedures – Compiling Campus & Off Campus Crime Data
The Clery Act also requires schools to collect data and statistics about criminal activity which occurs on campus, on other school property (on or off campus), and public property. This applies to practically all crimes, including:
- sexual offenses (forcible, nonforcible),
- physical assault/battery, and
- criminal alcohol activity.
In addition, data about hate crimes must also be collected. The following information must be collected: the nature of the criminal event, date, time, general location of each crime, and the disposition of the complaint, if known. Clery Act schools are required to provide the data to students and employees.
In the context of a civil lawsuit for college crime, the Clery Act’s crime data requirement can be helpful in establishing knowledge or notice. In any civil crime victim injury lawsuit, the injured party (plaintiff) bears the burden of proof, which requires among other things, proof that the at-fault party (defendant) was negligent. In general, proving negligence requires evidence that the defendant had knowledge or otherwise should have known about the problem before the incident at issue. Therefore, Clery Act data can be helpful in proving who knew what and when.
For example, in a civil lawsuit against a college for failing to warn students of the threat of physical assault, what the school knew and when will come into play. Therefore, the school’s Clery Act data can be helpful in proving that the school received reports of physical assault prior to the assault at issue in the case.
Related: Liability in School Hazing Cases
It is important to note that the Clery Act specifically mandates that no independent cause of action or legal right is allowed based on a school’s compliance or noncompliance with the Act.
About Laffey, Bucci & Kent
Our firm represents individuals who have been injured due to the negligence of others. Firm partner, Brian Kent, is a former prosecutor who now represents victims of crime. Please call the firm for more information. Click To Call