More Colleges Turn to Law Firms to Handle Campus Crime Reporting
Law firms are stepping in to handle universities’ Clery reporting to avoid fines that can cost up to $57,000 per penalty.
Under the Clery Act, colleges and universities participating in federal financial aid programs are required to maintain and disclose campus crime statistics and security information.
Despite the overall decrease in campus crime from 2001 to 2016, there are still more than 28,400 criminal incidents — including sexual assaults, hate offenses, violence and more — on higher ed campuses, according to the Department of Education.
Now, more and more colleges and universities are relying on their legal departments to sort out their campus crime reporting, reports Big Law Business.
“The size of fines drives a lot of the need for legal advice,” said Katherine Brodie, partner of the law firm Duane Morris. “Another reason is the reputational damage if something happens that reflects badly on the college or university.”
Failure to report under the Clery Act can cost more than $57,000 per infraction, and penalties or inaccurate reporting can be much more.
“That most definitely gets the clients’ attention,” Brodie said.
The most common reasons for fines can be the failure to report accurate data, failure to carry out the law’s notification requirements or a lack of appropriate policies for handling offenses.
MSU went on to hire law firm McDermott Will & Emery to conduct an independent review of how the school handled student allegations against former doctor Larry Nassar.
Brodie estimated that her law firm handles about 50 requests from higher ed schools each year.
Husch Blackwell, another firm, has around 250 college and university clients and offers an automated program that streamlines the federally mandated reporting.
“It requires pulling together statistics on a wide variety of crimes and policies, and those can differ by campus even for the same educational institution. And differences in state law also can affect what is reported,” said Hayley Hanson, who leads Husch Blackwell’s team working on Clery cases.
Colleges and universities must publish crime data by Oct. 1 and make it available to current and prospective students