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    July 2016

    Updated Clery Act Handbook Includes VAWA Compliance Guidance on Required Policy Statements

    The Department of Education’s (ED) updated Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting (handbook) includes specific guidance on compliance with the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA) amendments to the Clery Act, which requires higher education institutions to disclose crime statistics and security information. The 2016 handbook replaces prior editions.

    Under the amendments, an institution’s annual security report (ASR) must include policy statements regarding applicable procedures—for victims and the institution—when dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking are reported. Institutions that do not comply are subject to fines of up to $35,000 per Clery Act violation.

    Procedures Victims Should Follow

    The VAWA amendments require institutions to explain in the ASR what individuals should do if they become victims of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, including:

    • Evidence. Institutions must give victims written information about the importance of preserving evidence; the handbook also recommends explaining how to obtain a forensic exam.
    • Reporting. Institutions must explain how and to whom alleged offenses should be reported. According to the handbook, this means “any person or organization that can assist the victim.” Although the institution can determine the appropriate contacts, ED recommends including institutional and community resources.
    • Law enforcement or campus authorities. Institutions must explain options for involving law enforcement or campus authorities: Victims can notify these authorities— and are entitled to the institution’s assistance if they request it—or they can decline to notify authorities.
    • Protective measures. An institution must include specific information about which protective measures are available, such as no contact orders or restraining orders issued by the institution or a court, and instructions for obtaining and enforcing them. If the institution itself does not issue such orders, the ASR must state this and explain alternative options in the jurisdiction.

    Procedures Institutions Will Follow

    The ASR must include detailed information about the institution’s internal procedures in matters involving alleged dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking:

    • Confidentiality. The institution must detail how it protects victim confidentiality when collecting and reporting Clery Act statistics and providing victim accommodations and interim protective measures.
    • Victim services. The institution is required to include written information about campus and community support services (e.g., counseling, victim advocacy, legal aid); if none are available on campus, this must be stated in the ASR.
    • Protective measures. Institutions are required to comply with a victim’s reasonable request for accommodations or protective measures and identify potential accommodation options.
    • Disciplinary procedures. Institutions must implement and disclose disciplinary procedures for alleged dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, including:
      • Descriptions of each disciplinary proceeding the institution uses
      • The standard of evidence used during each proceeding
      • Specifics about all potential sanctions
      • Statement that proceedings will be conducted by officials who receive at least annual training on topics such as relevant evidence, proper techniques for questioning witnesses, basic procedural rules, and avoiding conflicts of interest
      • Simultaneous written notification to both parties of the result of a disciplinary proceeding and any appeal rights

    Finally, the handbook notes that institutions must state in the ASR, and follow, a practice of giving victims “prepared, standardized and written” documentation of their rights and options.

    Resources

    U.S. Department of Education, Office of Postsecondary Education, The Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting, 2016 Edition, Washington, DC, 2016 

    White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, Not Alone

    EduRisk, The Campus SaVE Act: A Compliance Guide

    EduRisk, Title IX and Beyond: FAQs on Federal Laws and Guidance

    By Hillary Pettegrew, senior risk management counsel

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