30-Minute Notice Requirement Not Included in HEA Reauthorization

Published: August 27, 2008

WASHINGTON – The Higher Education Act (HEA) was reauthorized by Congress and signed into law by President Bush Aug. 14. It provides for a matching grant program so that colleges and universities can fund safety and security initiatives. Not included in the legislation, however, is the hotly contested 30-minute notification requirement, nor the creation of the National Center for Campus Public Safety. Several additions to the Clery Act are also included, as are changes to missing student protocols. Additionally, institutions of higher education will now be required to report fires.

The legislation authorizes 50 percent matching grants to be awarded to institutions of higher education on a competitive basis. These are intended to enable colleges to develop and implement state-of-the-art emergency communication systems; procedures for students, faculty and staff to follow in the event of an emergency; and procedures for institutions to notify their communities about emergencies.

The bill also funds other measures, including security assessments, security training, coordination with local authorities, establishment of an emergency hotline, and acquisition and installation of access control, video surveillance, intrusion detection, and perimeter security systems. There is also a provision for mental health services for students and staff so they can be coordinated with appropriate local entities. Funding levels will be determined during the appropriations process.

4 Crime Categories Added to Clery Act
Changes to the Clery Act include four new categories of crime: larceny-theft, simple assault, vandalism and intimidation. Campuses will now be required to report on these additional categories in their annual crime reports. Furthermore, institutions must report campus policies on immediate emergency response and evacuation procedures. Colleges must also report how they plan to immediately notify the campus community upon confirmation of a significant emergency. These procedures must be tested annually, but emergency testing involving all campus personnel is not included in this requirement. According to a clarification issued by the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA), this test does not have to be a “fire drill.”

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A proposed addition to the Clery Act that was not included in the HEA was the controversial 30-minute notification rule, which most campus administrators and law enforcement officials opposed. Instead, institutions of higher education will be required to “immediately notify the campus community upon confirmation of a significant or dangerous situation involving an immediate threat to the health and safety of students or staff occurring on campus.” Notification will not be required if it will compromise efforts to contain the emergency.

According to Lisa Phillips, director of government relations for IACLEA, although there is little or no likelihood that the 30-minute provision will be added to the HEA, another bill requiring 30-minute notification is being considered. “Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) wants a free standing bill that either she or one of her colleagues will introduce,” says Phillips. “So is the issue gone? No.”

National Center Not Included in Bill
One disappointment for many in the campus law enforcement community was the fact that the HEA did not include a provision for the creation of a National Center for Campus Public Safety. Phillips says that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has introduced the School Safety and Security Act, which includes the center. “It’s pending for a full Senate vote, but it did go through the committee with no objection,” she adds.

Congressman Bobby Scott (D-Va.), who is chairman of the House Judiciary Crime Subcommittee, will also be introducing a bill in support of the center. “We have it from both sides,” she says. “The question is how fast they can do it. My guess is not until next year.”

Fire, Missing Student Protocols Added
The reauthorized HEA will require campuses to keep logs of fire events causing personal or property damage. These provisions do not require the reporting of all alarms or minor events. Reports are to be submitted by the institution to the U.S. secretary of education.

Colleges and universities will also be required under the new bill to develop protocols for students missing more than 24 hours. Institutions are encouraged to have students designate emergency contacts.

Phillips says she is pleased with the final version of the HEA. “I would say it gets to points of concern members of Congress have without putting an unrealistic burden on campus safety. It supports and encourages good practices and risk assessments through its grant program without tying the hands of police departments, telling them how to respond to every incident.

“I’m a former congressional staffer and was amazed and delighted by the committee staff, and how they brought in all sorts of people and listened to them,” she adds. “I hadn’t seen that in 20 years. It was truly an open process.”

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