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In the early morning hours of April 5, 1986, the lifeless body of Lehigh University freshman Jeanne Clery was found raped and beaten in her third floor dormitory bedroom. Her parents, who had dropped Jeanne off from her spring break just five days earlier, were completely devastated by the murder of their only daughter and youngest child. The Clerys had chosen Lehigh in Bethlehem, Pa. over other universities for its safe environment. They might have decided otherwise, however, had Lehigh been obligated to report that it had only twelve security guards for 5,400 students or that it had been the site of 38 violent offenses, including rape, robbery and assault, during a three-year period. Jeanne’s murder, committed by a fellow Lehigh student who had a well-documented history of violent behavior, ignited a public outcry by victims’ rights groups and concerned parents for legislation addressing campus crimes. Eventually, Congress passed The Campus Security Act of 1990. The legislation, since renamed the Clery Act, requires all institutions of higher education participating in student aid programs to publicly disclose campus crime statistics, to make available to the public a daily log of all reported criminal incidents, and to provide a detailed description of all security policies. In theory, by making such information available to the public, the Clery Act would provide parents and prospective students with the type of information about campus crime that was unavailable to the Clerys. University administrators around the country, however, wary that revealing accurate campus crime statistics might discourage applications, found loopholes in the law that allowed them to withhold certain crimes from their statistics. “The universities have an interest in protecting enrollment and funding sources,” says Daniel Carter, vice-president of Security on Campus, Inc., a not-for-profit campus watchdog group founded by the Clerys. “The Department of Education must really step up and enforce the law.” Many universities covered up crimes occurring on their campuses by adjudicating offenses before internal academic disciplinary boards. These boards often discouraged student victims from reporting crimes to the police. Originally organized to deal with standard college infractions, such as academic dishonesty and underage drinking, some boards began adjudicating complex criminal issues, including theft, assault, and rape. The universities justified not reporting these internal adjudications with another piece of legislation: the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act was enacted to protect the privacy of students by punishing schools that released a student’s educational records to parties other than parents, school officials, and the students themselves. School administrators included accusations tried before disciplinary boards with the “educational records” they were not allowed to release. Universities further prevented the accurate reporting of crime statistics under the Clery Act by not including crimes that occurred off-campus, even if the “off-campus crime” took place only a matter of blocks away. Additionally, the Clery Act’s list of offenses did not include weapons possession, alcohol, or drug violations. Congress responded to these loopholes in the Clery Act by enacting amendments in 1998. The 1998 amendments, which will be implemented on July 1, 2000, bar universities from classifying criminal disciplinary hearings as “educational records”; provide that off-campus crimes occurring within the geographic vicinity of the school must be included in the campus crime statistics; and include alcohol, drug, and weapons violations among the crimes that must be reported. By eliminating ambiguity from the university statistics, the new amendments strengthen the ability of the federal government to levy sanctions against violating schools. The Clery Act permits the Department of Education to impose sanctions of up to $25,000 for each offense committed. Thus far, however, the government has been reluctant to impose any sanctions. Internal Department of Education documents obtained by American Lawyer Media reveal that, as of last month, not one fine had been imposed against the 335 schools cited for “minor” violations of the act since it was passed. In what may be a preview of the tougher enforcement expected when the amendments come into force this summer, however, the department recently issued a formal letter to Mount St. Claire College in Iowa stating its intention to sanction the university $25,000 for three violations of the Clery Act. The school had until May 22 to respond.

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