School Security: Clery Act Compliance

The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act) was signed into law in 1990. It requires that all institutions of higher education that participate in federal financial aid programs to keep and disclose information about crime and policies for their campuses.

The Clery Center for Security On Campus was founded as Security On Campus Inc., in 1987 following the 1986 brutal rape and murder of Jeanne Clery in her on-campus residence hall by another student whom she did not know. Howard and Connie Clery, along with a network of campus crime survivors and their families, led the public crusade to raise awareness about campus crime and eventually worked to advocate for the passage of the Clery Act.

Non-compliance with the Clery Act can be costly. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) can impose fines up to $35,000 per violation (increased from $27,000 in 2012) and also suspend those institutions from participation in federal student financial aid programs. In addition to the financial penalties, most violations turn into headline news. Here are a few recent cases:

• The most publicized case surrounds ED’s investigation of Penn State University, triggered by the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse conviction. ED delivered the results of its nearly two-year preliminary investigation to Penn State officials in July; however, the university is bound by law not to discuss the preliminary findings of the review.

• ED opened an investigation in July into whether Swarthmore College violated Clery Act regulations by failing to report sexual harassment and assault cases on its 1,545-student Delaware County campus in a timely fashion. A nearly identical complaint was filed in May by students at Dartmouth College.

• Yale University was fined $155,000 this year for Clery Act violations that happened in the early 2000s. The fines are due to an investigation that the education department began in 2004, where it had identified four forcible sex offenses on campus — two in 2001 and two in 2002 — that should have been included in the university’s annual report of crime statistics but were not. ED found that Yale had improperly defined its campus for crime-reporting purposes, omitting parts of Yale-New Haven Hospital that the university controls.

Clery compliance requires support from university administrators, leadership and external stakeholders, such as the Board of Trustees. It is not the sole role of campus police, public safety or security; however, often a single administrator on campus is charged with the responsibility of Clery compliance. This is a near impossible task for one person and should be approached from a team perspective.

To this end, the Clery Center just launched a pilot Clery Collaborative learning program wherein institutions of higher education enroll a team of 5-7 professionals representing different departments in a program that addresses Clery compliance through virtual and in-person learning, discussion boards and a centralized pool of resources.

The curriculum for this program was developed to approach compliance from a collaborative perspective. Through an analysis of program reviews, public record and findings available through ED, the Clery Center has identified the following common mistakes in implementing the requirements of the Clery Act:


1. Failure to Report Proper Geography

The Clery Act requires colleges and universities to report crime statistics and distribute warnings for certain crimes (consistent with the FBI Uniform Crime Report) in certain geographical areas (on-campus, on-campus residence halls, non-campus, public property). A common challenge that institutions face includes properly identifying non-campus buildings or properties, public property or separate campuses — as was the case for Yale University in the earlier example.

A practice to avoid these errors includes identifying all locations through a review of maps, contracts and verbal/oral agreements. For example, a fraternity house may be controlled by the fraternity but is located on land owned by the institution on the confines of the campus. In this instance, the property would be reported as on-campus. Administrators should also evaluate programs that occur as part of study-abroad programs. An annual evaluation of the locations of these programs and what is reportable is prudent.

Separate campuses consistently pose a challenge for colleges and universities. If a campus is not reasonably contiguous to an institution and has an organized program of study, one person or more on-site as an administrator, and the institution owns or controls the space, it is considered a separate campus and should be reported as such with a separate Annual Security Report.


2. Lack of or Inadequate Policy Statements

The Clery Act requires the publication of an Annual Security Report each October that includes reportable crime statistics and policy statements. The policy statements serve as summaries for campus policies around crime prevention and reporting protocols.

A common finding of ED program reviews includes inadequate or lack of policy statements. The areas where most deficiencies are recognized are for timely warnings, reportable crimes, confidential reporting, sexual assault policies, crime prevention programs and relationship with local law enforcement.

To effectively build policies, campus administrators must convene regularly to ensure that statements include all components of federal law; furthermore, campus administrators must determine if the implementation of the policy is realistic.


3. Failure to publish and share an Annual Security Report

The Clery Act requires institutions that receive Title IV funding to publish and distribute an annual security report (ASR) to all current and prospective students and employees. This report includes crime statistics for the three preceding calendar years along with summary policy statements in areas such as sex offense prevention and response, timely warnings, and emergency notification.

The policy statements are summarized above and the Clery Center provides training and checklists supporting the production of this document.


4. Inadequate Methods to Collect Crime Statistics

“Campus Security Authority” is a Clery-specific term that identifies individuals responsible for providing crime statistics to campus security, public safety or police. CSA refers to four distinct groups of individuals on a campus: campus police, public safety or security; any individual responsible for monitoring access to buildings and other spaces; any individual or office where a crime is reported to; and an official at the institution who has significant responsibility for student and campus activities.

Many institutions fall short in notifying employees and staff that they are Campus Security Authorities and training them on this role. Campus police and public safety departments cannot be the sole stewards of these issues. The approach will only succeed if it is both top-down and bottom-up by engaging their boards of trustees or regents, president’s offices, students and administrators to fully address campus crime, and to build safer campus communities that do not tolerate sexual violence.


Alison Kiss is Executive Director of the Clery Center for Security On Campus. She has contributed to textbooks on campus crime and sexual violence and has spoken nationally and internationally on these topics. She is currently completing a doctoral degree in higher education leadership at Northeastern University with research interests in leadership and compliance with Federal law. For more information about the Clery Center, visit