Clery Act fines to rise with inflation

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The maximum fine for any violation under the Jeanne Clery Act increased to $35,000 today.

The maximum fine rose from $27,500 as part of an inflation adjustment. The announcement was published in today’s Federal Register.

The Clery Act is a 1990 statute that requires all colleges that accept federal education funding — which includes almost all public and private colleges that accept federal financial aid — to record and release information about crime near and on campus or risk losing federal funding.

The law is named for a Lehigh University student found beaten, raped and murdered in her dorm room. After her death, it was discovered that the university failed to disclose several other violent crimes that occurred shortly before Jeanne Clery’s murder.

Under the law, schools must maintain a publicly accessible crime log that’s up-to-date within 48 hours, warn campus communities of dangerous situations, and release an annual report by Oct. 1 detailing crime statistics for the prior three years.

“Indexing the Clery Act fine is intended to maintain the status quo and keep the strength of the Clery Act at the same level as inflation minimizes the value of lower level penalties,” said S. Daniel Carter, a campus safety expert who works for the VTV Family Outreach Foundation, an organization established by family members of those killed in the Virginia Tech shootings.

The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990 requires that civil monetary penalties be adjusted at least every four years, but this adjustment marks only the second time Clery fines have increased, Carter said in an email. The fines were raised from $25,000 to $27,500 in 2002.

“I don’t know what specifically prompted the increase other than it was overdue,” Carter said.

In a landmark decision earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wrote that violent crimes — homicides, sex offenses and robberies — are serious enough to warrant the maximum fine for each instance of misreporting by an institution.

Failure to report non-violent crimes, or failure to comply with any of the law’s other requirements, can receive the maximum penalty as well, depending on the circumstances.

The newly raised fines won’t affect any violations uncovered during DOE investigations already in progress, only those occurring after today.

By Samantha Raphelson, SPLC staff writer. Contact Raphelson by email or at (703) 807-1904 ext. 126.