House wants colleges to make sex offenders on campus public

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Schools with information regarding registeredsex offenders present on their campuses will be required to make that informationavailable to students if the Senate approves a bill passed unanimouslyby the House in July.

If the federal bill becomes law, beginning in 2001 campus police departmentswill have to make available the same kind of sex offender registry informationas local law enforcement would. Schools will be required to provide a writtenpolicy assuring that they will acknowledge the registered sex offenderson campus as well as stating what information will be available, how studentsand faculty can access it and when the information will be updated.

Although critics of the bill fear that colleges would have difficultyimplementing such a law, advocates such as Daniel Carter, vice presidentof Security on Campus, say that is not the case.

“There’s been some misunderstanding about what it would do,” Cartersaid. “Because lobbyists don’t want another provision for reporting, they’retrying to make it seem like it’s a lot of work.”

Carter said the process for dissemination of the information is actuallya simple one in which the school can distribute the information to studentsin the same format as it is distributed to them by the states.

“I want to make it clear that where this information is made availableto them by the state, then they have to make that information availableto the students,” Carter said.

In addition to the requirement that information about sex offendersemployed by or enrolled at the school be included in its annual securitydisclosures, stipulations that schools report more fire safety information,publish policies regarding missing students and clarify the categorizationof residence hall crimes are also included among the provisions of HR 4504,an amendment to the Higher Education Act.

The measure, which is now before the Senate Committee on Health, Education,Labor and Pensions for consideration, also requires campuses to revealinformation regarding their fire-safety equipment and regulations and providestatistics on incidents of fires and false alarms as well as the deaths,injuries and damages caused by those incidents.

Additionally, universities would have to submit a report by July 2002analyzing their fire safety systems and standards with recommendationsfor bringing all buildings that fall below those standards into compliance.

A missing students portion of the bill would ensure that universitiesprovide a policy for notification to parents and law enforcement regardingmissing students.

HR 4504 also seeks to reconfigure the geographic breakdown of campuscrime statistics so that residence hall crimes are reported in only onecategory, not two, as is the case with the current method of calculation.

Carter said crimes committed in residence halls are now reported twice,in both the general campus category and on-campus housing column. He saidthis manner of reporting can lead to confusion about where crimes are beingcommitted.

“We sought a minor technical change that would make each of the fourgeographic columns mutually exclusive,” Carter said. “We believe that retainsthe benefit of students knowing where the crimes are happening but makesit much more clear.”