Ruling: Tarleton State Must Pay $110K For Clery Violations

WASHINGTON — Tarleton State University must pay $110,000 in fines for Clery Act violations according to a decision made by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on June 1.

Duncan upheld three separate $27,500 fines for the failure to report sex crimes, and imposed an additional $27,500 fine for an incident in which the university failed to disclose a robbery. The decision sets the precedent that fines may be issued for misrepresenting even a single criminal incident.

“A single fine for issuing a crime report missing multiple crimes is tantamount to sending the message to postsecondary institutions throughout the nation that regardless of whether your crime report omits one crime or 101 crimes, the maximum fine is the same” Duncan said. “It is common sense that the calculation of such a fine carries less compulsion of compliance than” imposing a penalty for each serious incident misrepresented.

Duncan’s decision overturned the ruling of Administrative Law Judge Ernest C. Canellos. Canellos struck down a $137,500 fine down to $27,500 on the grounds that individual fines could not be imposed for misrepresenting single incidents of crime.

“The Secretary’s ruling in the Tarleton case is a major precedent, and should have a major impact on all of the ‘random’ cases now working their way through the process,” said S. Daniel Carter, director of the 32 National Campus Safety Index. “It makes it clear that lack of intent to violate Clery is not a defense — institutions must certify compliance so no intent is needed to fine, and that misrepresenting single ‘serious’ crimes warrants a per violation fine.”

Duncan further remanded the matter to the office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) “for recalculation of the appropriate fine for the remaining 70 violations of the Clery Act” for which that office had not specifically articulated the basis for the fine amount imposed.

Read the decision.

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