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Amendment requires greater access to campus crime information

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Amendment requires greater access to campus crime information 10/19/98 WASHINGTON, D.C.--President Clinton signed into law legislation allowing for greater access…

Amendment requires greater access to campus crime information

10/19/98

WASHINGTON, D.C.–President Clinton signed into law legislation allowing for greater access to college and university crime information in early October. The changes were authorized as part of the Higher Education Amendments of 1998 and apply to all schools receiving federal funds, effective immediately.

The newly enacted law will require schools to keep a public police log of campus crime, expand disclosure of crime statistics and provide information about the outcome of some campus disciplinary proceedings.

The law amends the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, commonly known as the buckley amendment, which withholds funds from schools that publicly disclose “education records.” Many schools have refused to disclose any records about students and campus crimes, even when required to do so under state open records laws, out of fear of losing funds.

The police log must be maintained daily and written in a form that is easily understandable. It must include the nature, date, time and location of each crime and the disposition of the complaint. Unless otherwise exempt, the information is to be disclosed within two business days of the initial report.

Manslaughter and arson are now among those crimes that must be reported by campus officials. Arrests or referrals for campus disciplinary action for drug or liquor violations or weapons possession now must be disclosed. “Hate crimes” must be classified according to “category of prejudice” and disclosed.

Statistics must also be provided for an expanded range of locations, including certain non-campus buildings and public property adjacent to campus, and the information must be categorized according to the location of the incident.

Some information may be withheld if it will jeopardize an ongoing criminal investigation or an individual’s safety.

Schools may no longer rely on the Buckley Amendment to block disclosure of the final results of campus disciplinary proceedings taken against a student who allegedly perpetrated a violent crime or a nonforcible sex offense, if that student is found to have violated the school’s rules or policies. However, the information disclosed is limited to the name of the student, the violation committed and the sanction imposed by the school. The names of other students, such as victims or witnesses, may only be included with their written consent.

Schools may also disclose to parents or guardians, without fear of penalty under the Buckley Amendment, information regarding drug and alcohol violations contained in a student’s “education” records if the student is under the age of 21 and if the student is deemed to have committed a disciplinary violation.

The Congressional conference committee report noted that Congress has been disappointed by a growing number of reports about schools “circumventing current law or failing to provide accurate information with respect to crimes occurring on campus.” The committee recommended that the Department of Education aggressively pursue and penalize institutions that fail to comply with reporting requirements.

The legislation also recommends that no student should be officially sanctioned, excluded from educational benefits or discriminated against for engaging in protected speech or protected association.

Revenues, expenses and other information regarding intercollegiate athletics also must be disclosed under the new provisions.

The legislation also recommends that schools should discourage alcohol-related sponsorship of on-campus activities and limit the advertisement and promotion of alcohol on campus. (Higher Education Amendments of 1998)