Fix the Clery Act, Don’t ‘86’ It

The Clery Act forces top college administrators to pay attention to campus public safety staffing, technology and emergency management.

For those of you who didn’t attend the Campus Safety National Forum in Washington, D.C., last month, you missed the big surprise that was delivered by Sen. Claire McCaskill when she said she was “OK with removing the Clery Act completely.” Although right now many of you may be doing a little happy dance at the prospect of your campus no longer having to comply with this law, I urge to take a step back and think about the unintended consequences of the Clery Act going away.

First, let’s give some credit to Clery for all that it has accomplished over the years. Because of its reporting and emergency notification requirements, there is now much greater awareness among college students and their parents of the safety and security issues on U.S. college and university campuses. This has forced top administrators to pay a lot more attention to campus security, technology and emergency management, which, has directly and/or indirectly benefitted many campus public safety programs and the students they protect.

RELATED: Clery Center Responds to McCaskill Call to Repeal Clery Act

In fact, the Clery Act has been so effective at increasing awareness of college security issues that some security professionals at hospitals want their own version of Clery.

And let’s not forget about our K-12 readers who, like hospital protection professionals, also don’t have the Clery Act. K-12 protection professionals, however, are at an even greater disadvantage because due to the unintended consequences of No Child Left Behind, there is a disincentive for administrators at elementary, junior high and high schools to accurately report incidents. As a result, security, emergency management and public safety issues in school districts usually get swept under the rug until something horrible like Columbine or Sandy Hook prompts districts into knee-jerk reactions. K-12 schools would benefit greatly from a Clery-type of law.

If the Clery Act goes away and colleges are no longer required to accurately report incidents, not to mention issue alerts during emergencies, many of the improvements in safety and security that colleges have made over the past couple of decades could also go away. If you are involved in college or university public safety, emergency management or security technology, do you really want to go back to the “good ol’ days” when top administrators ignored your pleas for improved campus protection? I think not. With the Clery Act in place, at least you have a greater chance of being heard.

Now, does the Clery Act need to be less bureaucratic and easier to understand? Absolutely. However, does any of the proposed legislation currently in Congress include anything requiring campuses to accurately report incidents (except for Title IX, which only covers sexual misconduct/violence/harassment)? Does it include emergency notification? I haven’t seen anything indicating that it does. If it doesn’t, new legislation must be introduced to include these important Clery Act provisions before we do away with Clery.

I realize that trying to comply with the Clery Act can turn into a bureaucratic nightmare. Before you jump on any bandwagon to repeal this law, however, think long and hard about what this means for your ability to garner top administrator support for your public safety, security and technology initiatives, which would affect your ability to protect your students, faculty, staff, visitors and campus property. When you do this, I think you’ll find that a compromise that fixes Clery or incorporates it into other legislation is the best way to approach this matter.

Photo: ThinkStock

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About the Author

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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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