Iowa College challenges DOE ruling that it improperly reported campus crime

Mount St. Clare College in Clinton, Iowa, filed a brief in July appealing the U.S. Department of Education’s decision to fine the college $25,000 for failure to report incidents in its crime statistics.

The DOE said the college was in violation of the federal Clery Act when it failed to report 15 incidents in its crime reports between 1993 and 1998. Those reports from the school left out crimes such as aggravated assault, burglary, sexual assault and various weapons offenses.

However, Mount St. Clare College officials said the fine is being unfairly imposed because the law’s crime-reporting regulations are vague.

“We had some incidents that [the college] did not think needed to be reported, and we have challenged how some of those incidents are reported,” said Effie Hall, director of college relations for Mount St. Clare College.

Hall said Mount St. Clare College and the DOE are in the midst of negotiations over the fine. She said it is uncertain when the DOE must respond to the brief filed by the college in July and whether a hearing will ensue.

SPLC View: While it took some significant prodding, the DOE seems to have stepped up its enforcement of existing federal campus crime reporting laws. Much effort has gone into shoring up campus crime reporting legislation over the last several years and student media should make an effort to understand their rights under the law. Where a school is not in compliance, and where efforts to informally resolve the matter have been ignored, it appears that a properly filed complaint to the DOE may finally have some teeth.