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Thursday, June 6, 2013
FOI Toolbox

Clarifying the Clery Act on campus crime

By Joey Senat

A female student complained to Oklahoma State University police in January that her ex-boyfriend had secretly videotaped them having sex in an on-campus apartment that the student newspaper identified as a football player’s residence.

OSU officials redacted the ex-boyfriend’s name and other identifying information from the incident report released to the news media. They claimed state law required them to redact the suspect’s information, although the state Open Records Act has no such requirement.

The female student’s name, address, date of birth and phone number were included, even though a federal statute prohibits the identification of victims in required crime logs, annual crime statistics and timely warnings of threats on campus.

However, OSU had not violated the Clery Act because, a U.S. Department of Education spokeswoman said in mid-April, the statute doesn’t control incident reports required under state open records laws. Instead, the statute supersedes only state laws that require victims’ names be listed in crime logs.

The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act requires public and private post-secondary schools that receive federal funding and maintain a police or security department to keep a daily crime log that is open to public inspection and is readily understandable. The Education Department’s Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting explains important conditions imposed on those crime logs. For example:

• All crimes must be added to the log within two business days (Monday through Friday, except for school holidays) of their initial report to campus police. This includes any addition to an entry or change in the disposition of a complaint. The only exceptions are if the disclosure is prohibited by law or would jeopardize the confidentiality of the victim.

• The log must include the nature, date (occurred and reported), time and general location of each crime, and its disposition if known. The location must mean something to the campus community but must not lead to identification of the victim.

• Schools may temporarily withhold information only if there is clear and convincing evidence that its release would jeopardize an ongoing investigation or an individual’s safety; cause a suspect to flee; or result in evidence being destroyed. The reason for withholding the information should be documented.

• The crime log for the most recent 60 days must be open to the public during normal business hours. Schools may not require a written request. Anyone may inspect the log, including media not associated with the school. Logs older than 60 days must be made available within two business days of the request. Schools may post logs online. But if technical problems make it unusable, the school is expected to use a hard copy log as a replacement until the problems are resolved.

Entries in the crime log should be compiled with other sources into campus crime statistics for the required annual security report. The statistics must include crimes that occurred on non-campus property controlled by the school and on public property bordering campus and accessible from campus.

The report must be distributed to students and employees by Oct. 1 of each year. Prospective students and employees must be told of the report and provided a copy on request.

Schools with at least one on-campus student housing facility also must disclose missing student notification procedures for students in that housing. Such schools also must keep a fire log for public inspection and publish annual fire statistics for on-campus housing.

The maximum fine for any violation of the Clery Act is $35,000.

Crime and fire statistics for schools can be found at the U.S. Department of Education’s Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis Cutting Tool.

For more guidance on the Clery Act, visit:

Clery Center for Security on Campus

• Student Press Law Center's Student Media Guide to the Clery Act

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