U.S. House passes bill to require colleges to release more safety information

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill Feb. 7 that would requirecolleges and universities to release more campus safety information and issuepublic warnings within 30 minutes of a threat or emergency.

The College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007 is a reauthorizationof the Higher Education Act, a law that sets the conditions schools must meet inorder to get federal funds. The several-hundred-page bill contains a number ofsections that address campus safety, including amendments to the federal JeanneClery Act. That law requires colleges and universities receiving federal fundsto report certain crime statistics annually and make them publicly available.Schools also must issue “timely warnings” in the event of an emergency or athreat to the campus community.

Read the full story at: http://www.splc.org/newsflash.asp?id=1683&year=

SPLC View: With last year’s shooting spree at Virginia TechUniversity, this month’s killings at Northern Illinois University, and a numberof smaller incidents in between, there is considerable political and popularpressure to make sure students have accurate information about potential safetythreats as efficiently and quickly as possible. And with the omnipresence ofcell phones, the technology exists to alert a campus community within minutes,not hours or days, as has been the norm. We have long talked on these pages ofthe lack of enforcement (and the lack of student media pressure to require suchenforcement) of the Clery Act’s “timely warning” requirement. We’re glad to seethat may be changing. It’s sad, though — as is too often the case in suchmatters — that it takes tragedy to repair a system that should have beenfixed long ago.

Cite: H.R. 4137, Part I (2008)