28.6 C
Munich

U.S. Department of Education Imposes $14 Million Fine Against Liberty University for Clery Act Violations

Must read

[ad_1]

The U.S. Department of Education (Department) today announced its office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) is imposing a $14 million fine as a result of a settlement agreement with Liberty University (Liberty) for material and ongoing violations of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act), including with respect to its published crime statistics and treatment of sexual assault survivors. This is the largest fine ever imposed for violating the Clery Act, which requires institutions to provide important information about public safety issues to current students, parents, employees, prospective students and employees, and the public postsecondary schools participating in the federal student aid programs. As a part of the settlement, Liberty agreed to spend $2 million over the next two years for on-campus safety improvements and compliance enhancements. Progress on that work will be audited by an outside accounting firm. The Department will also conduct its post-review monitoring of Liberty through April 2026 to ensure that the school executes on promised improvements. Any further lapses in Clery Act compliance could jeopardize the terms of the University’s participation in the federal student aid programs or result in other administrative sanctions against the institution.

“Students, faculty, and staff deserve to know that they can be safe and secure in their school communities. We respond aggressively to complaints about campus safety and security,” said FSA Chief Operating Officer Richard Cordray. “Through the Clery Act schools are obligated to take action that creates safe and secure campus communities, investigate complaints, and responsibly disclose information about crimes and other safety concerns. We will continue to hold schools accountable if they fail to do so.”

In February 2022, FSA notified Liberty that it would conduct a program review to evaluate Liberty’s Clery Act compliance. The announcement followed the receipt of several complaints that alleged the university had engaged in a pattern of conduct that reflected serious violations of the Clery Act.

In May 2023, FSA’s Clery Group issued a program review report identifying significant violations of the Clery Act by Liberty. Liberty provided FSA more information in response to the program review report, and today, FSA issued a Final Program Review Determination (FPRD) letter that upholds 11 findings in the program review report:

  • Finding 1: Lack of administrative capability Liberty substantially failed to develop and implement an adequate Clery Act compliance program between 2016–23, the years FSA reviewed, and did not meet its regulatory responsibilities in numerous and serious ways. Specifically, the evidence acquired shows, among other things, that Liberty failed to: 1) provide accurate and complete informational disclosures; 2) comply with a number of sexual violence prevention and response requirements, 3) issue timely warnings to advise the campus community about criminal activity that may have posed a significant or ongoing threat; 4) issue emergency notifications to advise the campus community about emergencies or dangerous situations that may have posed a threat to health or safety.
  • Finding 2: Inaccurate and incomplete informational disclosures In its Annual Security Report (ASR) Liberty failed to develop and implement required statements about campus safety and crime prevention policy, procedure, practice, and programs and include accurate and complete informational disclosures in its annual security reports.
  • Finding 3: Failure to comply with Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) requirements – VAWA amended the Clery Act to expand and enhance the sexual violence prevention and response requirements that apply to all schools that participate in the federal student aid programs. Liberty failed to comply with numerous sexual violence prevention and response requirements of the Clery Act, such as providing victims of sexual violence with appropriate notice of their rights and options and deficiencies in the investigatory and adjudicative process.
  • Finding 4: Failure to identify and notify campus security authorities and to establish an adequate system for collecting crime statistics from all required sources Liberty failed to effectively collect required statistics for incidents of crimes reported to campus security authorities, failed to include them in its campus crime statistics, and failed to identify and notify campus security authorities of their obligations.
  • Finding 5: Failure to properly classify and disclose crime statistics – Liberty failed to compile and publish accurate and complete crime statistics for calendar years 2016–21.  FSA identified numerous instances where Liberty failed to include reported crimes in the annual security reports—including VAWA offenses—as well as numerous instances in which Liberty misidentified crimes, did not make required disclosures, and failed to properly classify crimes.
  • Finding 6: Failure to issue emergency notifications in accordance with federal regulations – Liberty knowingly and repeatedly failed to issue the required emergency notifications to advise the campus community about emergencies and other dangerous conditions that posed a threat to the community’s health or safety.
  • Finding 7: Failure to issue timely warnings in accordance with federal regulations The Clery Act and Department regulations require schools to issue timely warnings to the entire campus community to inform students and employees about Clery reportable crimes that pose an ongoing threat to students and employees.These warnings must be issued whenever such crimes are reported to a campus security authority but, Liberty failed to do so.
  • Finding 8: Failure to maintain an accurate and complete daily crime log –Schools with a police or campus security department must maintain a written, easily understood daily crime log that lists all crimes that occurred (1) on campus, including residence halls; (2) in non-campus buildings or on non-campus property; (3) on public property within the campus or immediately adjacent to and accessible from the campus; or (4) within the boundaries of the campus police or security department’s patrol zone. This reporting requirement applies to all types of crimes. Liberty failed to maintain accurate and complete daily crime logs throughout the review period.
  • Finding 9: Failure to define Clery geography in accordance with federal regulations Liberty did not properly apply the geographical definitions of the Clery Act, which involves identifying all buildings and properties within its “Clery Geography.” Thus, Liberty did not properly compile and report accurate crime statistics to the campus community and the Department. 
  • Finding 10: Failure to comply with Title IV record retention – Liberty failed to retain the required records necessary to establish its compliance with the Clery Act. The failure to retain these compromised the Department’s ability to conduct required oversight and monitoring.  
  • Finding 11: Failure to publish and distribute Annual Security Report in accordance with federal regulations – Schools must prepare a comprehensive ASR that contains, at a minimum, all statistics and policy disclosures identified in Department regulations. Schools must actively distribute the ASR to enrolled students and current employees through appropriate publications and mailings. Additionally, schools must provide a conspicuous notice to prospective students and employees, including a statement that the ASR is available, its contents, and the URL where it is posted. In four years, from 2018 through 2021, Liberty failed to distribute the revised version of the institution’s ASR. 

The settlement terms require Liberty to bring its programs and operations into full compliance with the Clery Act and do so in a manner that will provide reasonable assurance that these violations will not recur.  

The $14 million fine and other remedial actions imposed in this settlement reflect the serious and longstanding nature of Liberty’s violations, which undermined campus safety for students, faculty, and staff. The settlement also takes into account current  Liberty administration’s prompt acknowledgment of almost all the violations identified in the program review report, and its demonstrated commitment to remedying them. FSA will vigilantly monitor Liberty’s ongoing remedial actions, including the school’s increased spending on campus safety improvements. 

Students, parents, employees, and other stakeholders—including members of the public—can file complaints about suspected Clery Act violations; examples include a school misreporting crime statistics, failing to publish an Annual Security Report, discouraging individuals from reporting assaults, and failing to issue timely warnings about threats to safety. To file a Clery complaint with FSA, contact CleryComplaints@ed.gov, and provide the specifics of the alleged failure of compliance with the Clery Act and supporting documentation. To learn about or file a Title IX complaint—including complaints about sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual violence—visit the Department’s Office for Civil Rights at www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaintintro.html.

[ad_2]

Source link

- Advertisement -spot_img

More articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisement -spot_img

Latest article