Subcommittee hears crime bill testimony

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Witnesses presented testimony to the House Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education Training and Lifelong Learning in July regarding the Accuracy in Campus Crime Reporting Act (ACCRA), and the need for Congress to take action concerning campus crime.The bill, H.R. 715, sponsored by Reps. John Duncan (R-Tenn.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), would close loopholes in campus crime reporting and open campus disciplinary proceedings.The bill would mandate schools to maintain open police logs, and amend the Buckley Amendment to exempt student disciplinary records from being protected as “education records.”Ben Clery, president of Security on Campus, testified in favor of the bill, which his organization helped to draft with the Society of Professional Journalists.”We must insist on an open system with checks and balances,” he said. “We need to open those courts so there is a balance and an understanding of the seriousness of the crimes going on.”In addition to Clery, testimony concerning the bill was presented by Crystal Paulk, Society of Professional Journalists intern, Carol Bohmer, professor at Ohio State University and coauthor of “Sexual Assault on Campus: the Problem and the Solution” and Delores Stafford, director of the George Washington University Police Department.Paulk’s testimony drew upon her experience as a police and campus crime reporter at the University of Georgia, whose campus judicial proceedings were opened in 1993 by the Georgia Supreme Court decision Red and Black Publishing Co. v. University of Georgia.According to Paulk, other students are being denied a fair judicial process on their college campuses.”These are court systems that are not subject to public scrutiny,” she said. “On campuses across the country, secret judicial proceedings are the rule rather than the exception while administrators hide behind the Buckley Amendment.”Paulk also said schools must be stopped from hiding crime statistics.Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the subcommittee, noted the need for Congress to address crimes on campus.”We all want to believe our schools are safe havens,” he said. “But the statistics are hard evidence that what is going on in our elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools reflects what is happening in society as a whole.”