Understanding Clery Act Requirements for Educational Institutions

Best Practice Guide

Introduction and origins of the Clery Act

Since the early 1990s, post-secondary education institutions receiving funding from the federal government have been required to disclose information about crime on and near their campuses. The specific statute mandating these disclosures is the Clery Act, short for the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics.

Passed in 1990 as a major amendment to the Johnsonera Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA), the Clery Act enshrined the principle that students and employees have the right to know about crimes on campuses across the country. The Campus Sexual Violence Act (SaVE Act) provision of the 2013 Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) added further disclosure burdens for educational institutions. Specifically, VAWA obligated institutions to compile statistics for incidents of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, as well as list policies, procedures, and programs pertaining to these incidents.

The Clery Act itself is named after Jeanne Clery, 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 would go onto convict Henry, sentencing him to death. The death sentence was later thrown out, but Henry remains in prison to this day.

It was in the course of the murder trial, though, that the Clery family learned of what they considered lax security measures at Lehigh. Believing that a failure to disclose in part contributed to their daughter’s murder, the family filed a $25 million civil suit for negligence against the university. The suit was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. 

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