Since the early 1990s, colleges and universities in the U.S. receiving federal funding have been mandated by law to disclose information about crime on and near their campuses. In fact, it’s the pre-condition to participating in programs associated with Title IV of the Higher Education Act, which covers federal grants, loans, and work-study programs.
The specific statute mandating these disclosures is the Clery Act, short for the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics. What is the Clery Act? Keep reading to find out.
Passed in 1990, the Clery Act was a major amendment to the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA), the Johnson-era law governing federal higher education programs. Signed into law a generation after the HEA, the Clery Act enshrines the principle that students and employees have the right to know about crimes perpetrated on campuses across the country.
Since the Act’s initial passage during the first Bush administration, federal lawmakers have amended the Clery Act to include the Campus Sexual Violence Act (SaVE Act), a provision of the later (2013) Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA). The new Clery Act provision adds further disclosure burdens on educational institutions, who must now reveal statistics for incidents of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The provision also lays down policies, procedures, and programs pertaining to these incidents, as well.
So, what are the origins of the Clery Act? The Act itself is named after Jeanne Clery, who was a first-year student at Lehigh University in 1986 when she was raped and murdered by a fellow student, Josoph M. Henry. A Pennsylvania jury convicted Henry, sentencing him to death. The death sentence, however, was later thrown out; and Henry remains in prison to this day.
The course of the murder trial is most relevant to the genesis of the Clery Act, though. It was then that the Clery family learned about security measures at Lehigh; security measures they considered to be lax and contributory to their daughter’s death.
Believing that a failure to disclose the criminality on Lehigh’s campus also contributed to their daughter’s murder, the family filed a $25 million negligence suit against the university. The suit was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
Subsequently, the Clery family began a career in campus safety advocacy, promoting local, state, and federal legislation requiring colleges and universities to make their respective campus crime statistics public. The family’s activism culminated in the passage of the Clery Act, signed into law four years after Clery’s murder. To learn more about Clery Act disclosure requirements, read our guide to understanding the Act, created specifically for educational institutions.
American Council on Education: New Requirements Imposed by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act.
Federal Register: The Daily Journal of the United States Government. Violence Against Women Act.
Tyra Braden, The Morning Call: Henry trades appeal rights for life in prison for 1986 rape, murder of Lehigh student.
Ken Gross and Andrea Fine, People: After Their Daughter Is Murdered at College, Her Grieving Parents Mount a Crusade for Campus Safety.
Beverly Beyette, Los Angeles Times: Campus Crime Crusade: Howard and Connie Clery Lost Their Daughter to a Crazed Thief; Now They’re Angry and Fighting Back.