On July 14, 2014, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) issued important guidance to colleges and universities on their responsibilities to comply with changes to the Clery Act made by the amendment to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that became law on March 7, 2013. A copy of that guidance is available by clicking on the following link: DOE Clery Guidance.
Highlights of this guidance are set forth below:
Although proposed regulations explaining the new requirements were issued on June 20, 2014, final regulations are not expected until November 1, 2014 and those final regulations will not be effective until July 1, 2015.
Even though final regulations have not been issued, colleges and universities are required to make good faith efforts to comply with the VAWA amendments.
DOE is advising colleges and universities to use the definitions of the new crimes of “Domestic Violence,” “Dating Violence” and “Stalking” contained in the statute amending the VAWA rather than the definitions contained in the proposed regulations until the final regulations take effect.
Higher Education institutions are required to file their annual security reports (ASR) by October 1 of each year. In the ASR due October 1, 2014, colleges and universities are required to specify the procedures that they 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 such a report.
Accordingly, as part of a good-faith effort to comply with the statute, institutions are expected to revise their policy statements to include those procedures and to identify the standard of evidence that the institution will use.
Similarly, the statute requires institutions to include in their ASRs expanded information about a victim’s options for, and available assistance in, 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.
The DOE guidance goes on to say that to show a good-faith effort, institutions are expected to expand their existing policy statements to include information about how the institution will facilitate changes in a victim’s transportation and working situations, in addition to academic and living situations, if requested by the victim.
New Reporting Obligations
Even though the VAWA amendments did not become law until March of 2013, higher education institutions are expected to include total 2013 statistics for domestic violence, dating violence and stalking in their October 1, 2014 ASR to be reported to current and prospective students and employees. However, the report to be filed with DOE for the statistics on those three new crimes will not need to be filed until October, 1 2015 at which time higher education institutions will be required to report to DOE the statistics for both 2013 and 2014 on these new crimes of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.