The Department of Education has issued a "Dear Colleague Letter" (GEN-14-13) in an effort to help institutions comply with changes to the Clery Act as amended by the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). These changes will now require institutions to compile statistics for incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking as well update annual security reports to include certain policies, procedures, and programs related to these incidents. Institutions are required to include this new information in the annual security report issued to all current and prospective students and employees by October 1.
Annual Security Reports
In the letter, ED reiterated its call for colleges and universities to make a "good-faith effort" to comply with statutory requirements until final regulations are published and effective. Institutions should use the statutory provisions to help revise or develop policies, procedures, and programs for the annual security reports that must be issued this fall.
As part of the good-faith effort, new annual security reports must include:
- Procedures an institution will follow once an incident of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking has been reported, including a statement of the standard of evidence that will be used during any institutional conduct proceeding arising from the report.
- Revised policy statements to include those procedures and identify the standard of evidence an institution will use.
- Thorough information about options for victims and available assistance related to changing academic, living, transportation, and working situations if requested and reasonably available, regardless of whether the victim chooses to report the crime to campus police or local law enforcement.
Institutions also will be required to make a good-faith effort to include statistics for domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, which are new crime categories under the Higher Education Act. The upcoming annual security report should include statistics for the 2013 calendar year; although ED understands colleges and universities might not have comprehensive 2013 statistics, they should ensure that, to the best of their ability, data for the new crime categories are the most accurate and complete.
Institutions should also be aware that while they must include calendar year 2013 statistics in the upcoming annual security report, these crimes will not be reported to ED in this year's Web-based data collection. Statistics for calendar years 2013 and 2014 will be reported to the department during the fall 2015 data collection period. Each year, ED will gradually phase in the new statistical requirements by collecting data until three years are represented—as required under the Clery Act.
The public comment period for the VAWA notice of proposed rulemaking closed on July 21. The American Council of Education submitted comments addressing several concerns. ED will review the comments it has received and expects to publish final regulations by November 1, which would take effect on July 1, 2015.