The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has now more than doubled the original fine amount for violations of the Clery Act. For several years now, institutions have been operating with the understanding that ED could issue civil fines of up to $35,000 per violation for Clery Act compliance deficiencies, as recited on page 1-11 of the 2016 Edition of The Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting (i.e., “Clery Handbook”). But this amount was just raised to $54,789.
Clery Act fines were originally set at $25,000, and they have been adjusted multiple times over the years pursuant to the Inflation Adjustment Act. On April 20, 2017, ED issued a final rule that, among other things, raised the amount of Clery fines to $54,789 per violation. As noted in the final rule, the updated fine amount “is applicable only to civil penalties assessed after April 20, 2017 whose associated violations occurred after November 2, 2015.”
As noted in a prior blog post, Penn State University was hit with a $2.4 million fine for Clery Act compliance issues in November 2016, the largest Clery fine in history. In hindsight, Penn State may have gotten off the hook to some degree, as the new fine regime could have easily resulted in another $1 million on the total.
What this means for you
Clery Act compliance is critical. You already knew this, but the increased fine amount offers a not-so-subtle reminder of the potential consequences if your institution fails to accurately track and disclose crime statistics or publish an adequate Annual Security Report (ASR). Be sure you are prepared as the October 1 ASR deadline approaches.