Clery Act at center of Penn State probe, 26 years after young woman's murder
Ex-FBI Director Louis Freeh presented a report citing a "lack of awareness" about the Clery Act by Penn State officials.
July 12th, 2012
01:21 PM ET

Clery Act at center of Penn State probe, 26 years after young woman's murder

In 1986, Jeanne Clery, a 19-year-old freshman at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, was found dead in her third-floor dorm room. She had been sodomized, tortured, and then strangled with the uncoiled metal of a toy resembling a Slinky, according to media reports.

Clery's parents had sent her to Lehigh because they thought she'd be safe. She'd also been accepted at Tulane University in New Orleans, but after learning a student there had been murdered off campus, the couple began looking for a safer place to send their daughter for college.

It was only after Clery's murder that her parents learned Lehigh had seen 38 violent offenses - rape, robbery and assault among them - in a three-year period, according to a 1990 feature in People magazine.

Constance and Howard Clery later settled with the university for an undisclosed amount and began working to ensure campus crime was a more transparent issue in the future. They opened the Clery Center for Security on Campus and pushed for the 1990 legislation requiring public disclosure of crimes on American campuses.

The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, or Clery Act, is now at the center of the investigation into what Penn State University officials did or didn't do after hearing allegations that assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was molesting boys.

In a scathing internal review that blasts the upper echelons of the school's administration, investigators cited several failures to disclose information to police by a university leadership that the report said was more concerned about bad publicity than the sex-crime victims who had been molested on campus.

The review also reported "a lack of awareness of child abuse issues, the Clery Act, and whistle-blower policies and protections."

The act requires that any public or private university that receives federal financial aid make public any information about crime on or near campus. Each October, schools must issue a report outlining crimes in the previous three years and distribute the report to current and potential students.

The U.S. Department of Education monitors universities and can fine schools up to $27,500 per violation.

Schools are also required under the act to give timely warnings about any crimes that affect student or faculty safety, including criminal homicide, sex offenses, robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, auto theft and arson, according to the Student Press Law Center.

A Department of Education statement announcing an investigation into Penn State's handling of the Sandusky case mentions both the annual reporting and timely warning requirements.

"If these allegations of sexual abuse are true then this is a horrible tragedy for those young boys. If it turns out that some people at the school knew of the abuse and did nothing or covered it up, that makes it even worse. Schools and school officials have a legal and moral responsibility to protect children and young people from violence and abuse," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in the November statement.

Last month, a jury found Sandusky guilty of 45 counts related to his sexual abuse of boys over a 15-year period.

A handful of universities have been fined under the Clery Act since its inception, most notably Virginia Tech, which the Department of Education determined had waited too long to notify students and staff that a shooter was on the loose during a 2007 rampage that killed 32 people. The school was hit with two fines last year, totaling $55,000.

Other Clery Act violations include the following:

  • Eastern Michigan University agreed to pay $350,000 in fines in 2008 after investigators found the school did not promptly notify the campus community after Laura Dickinson was found dead on the floor of her dorm room, naked and with a pillow over her face, in December 2006. The university also settled with the Dickinson family for $2.5 million.
  • Salem International University, a private school in West Virginia, agreed to pay $200,000 in 2005 for failing to include several crimes in its annual report. Among the crimes were five forcible sex offenses and three robberies. The Department of Education also found the university didn't issue timely reports about threats on campus.
  • In 2000, Mount St. Clare College (now Ashford University) in Clinton, Iowa, paid $15,000 in fines after the Department of Education said it didn't make public 15 incidents in its crime reports, failed to distribute those reports to prospective students and failed to provide a complete outline of security policy between 1993 and 1999.
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Filed under: College football • Crime • Education • Jerry Sandusky • Penn State • Pennsylvania • Sports • U.S.
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Southern mom

    Shame! We need laws to tell college level educators that they must report crime and warn the public of criminal dangers? And this concept is too complicated for college administrators to comply? My 10 yr. old neice would say, "It's a no brainer!"

    July 12, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jacob

    The Department of Education can also not allow Penn State students to receive any Federal student aid as it should in this case.

    July 12, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Hope

    The Clerys had insight because this is a
    good act and should be complied with…

    Bless the Children,

    July 12, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. banasy©

    This is a good thing for parents to remember to check when sending their children off to college...
    It is sad that such a tragic event had to happen before enacting such a law; even sadder is that these schools would still try and cover-up crime of any sort occurring on campus...

    July 12, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jamie

    Well gosh darn it, these things would never happened if women hadnt burned their darn bras in the first place, just ask philip. Its all womens fault, or he implies it is anyway.

    July 12, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Johnbs

    IHere in Arizona one is required by law to report abuse of any kind. These people at Penn.State not only knew about it, but there was collusion involved. They all need about 10 years in the slammer. But then, maybe no PA law covers their crime, and a crime is surely is.

    July 13, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Obama Mama

    The coverups at Washington University and St. Louis University are that bad, if not worse.

    July 14, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |