Dept. of Ed. Issues New Clery Act Guidance Amid COVID-19 Crisis

The new guidance covers emergency notification requirements for the essential employees and small number of students who remain on college campuses.
Published: April 7, 2020

The Department of Education issued new guidance Friday on how institutions of higher education can continue to comply with Clery Act requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although the majority of college campuses have sent students home and moved to distance learning, the guidance includes information on emergency notification requirements for the essential employees and students who remain on campus, reports SAFE Campuses.

“The Clery Act and its implementing regulations require institutions to notify the campus community upon the confirmation of a significant emergency or dangerous situation involving an immediate threat to the health or safety of students or staff occurring on campus,” reads the guidance. “The Department does not interpret the statutory language as requiring institutions to give regular, on-going updates on COVID-19 or to proactively identify positive COVID-19 cases within the campus community. The Department also does not interpret the statutory language to apply to positive COVID-19 cases among individuals who are not attending classes, working, or residing on campus or to require notifications to such individuals.”

The emergency notification requirement can be satisfied by:

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  1. Providing students and employees a single notification through the regular means of communicating emergency notifications informing them about COVID-19 and necessary health and safety precautions, as well as encouraging them to obtain information from health care providers, state authorities, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID-19 website.
  2. Creating a banner at the top of the institution’s homepage containing that same information, including a statement about the global pandemic and a link to the CDC’s website.

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While it is up to individual institutions and not a requirement, the guidance also includes additional tools should a campus want to “provide adequate follow-up information to the community as needed.” It is also up to each individual institution to “determine the appropriate segment or segments of the campus community to receive a notification.”

S. Daniel Carter, president of SAFE Campuses, told Campus Safety that the new guidance is an important reminder that the Clery Act not only applies to safety threats but health threats as well.

“The scope of the guidance is consistent with the general premise of the requirement that it doesn’t work like a crime log with reports of individual incidents but warns about an immediate threat,” he said. “This is like issuing one warning for an impending weather threat, such as a tornado or hurricane, rather than issuing hourly reports about it absent a need to if circumstances change significantly.”

In its announcement, the Department also indicated it would provide further guidance on the dissemination of annual security reports (ASR) and annual fire safety reports, which may include extensions of reporting deadlines.

You can read the full guidance here and check out the Department’s COVID-19 information page for additional resources.

In this Thursday’s Campus Safety’s webinar, Hayley Hanson of Husch Blackwell will discuss the role campus security authorities (CSA) play in reporting Clery crimes and preventing reporting issues, including potential implications in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additional guidance has also been issued by Margolis Healy, which can be found here.

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