Given possible changes in federal enforcement of Title IX and the Clery Act under the Trump Administration, we strongly encourage you to contact a lawyer to discuss whether or not to file a complaint.
An individual can file a Clery Act complaint when they feel that any of their Clery Act rights have been violated by their institution. Most often individuals exhaust the options at the college/university level in regards to anything under Clery’s purview before pursing a complaint, but this is not always the case.
The U.S. Department of Education enforces the Clery Act, so complaints can be filed through their Clery Act Compliance Division at: email@example.com.You can also call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243). Schools that violate the Clery Act may face warnings, fines of up to $35,000 per violation, the limitation or suspension of federal aid, or the loss of eligibility to participate in federal student aid programs. If you are unsure if your school has violated the Clery Act consider seeking a lawyer or non-profit, like the Clery Center, to review your case.
Common Concerns When Filing a Complaint
Q: Do I need a lawyer to file a Clery Act complaint against my school?
A: No, in fact most complaints do not involve lawyers at all. However, legal counsel is a personal choice and may work for some and not for others.
Q: Where can I find additional examples of Clery Act violations?
A: The Occidental Sexual Assault Coalition has a great website which addresses this topic.
Q: When will I hear back about my case after I file?
A: It depends; the Clery office is extremely busy and will probably prioritize cases that already have an ongoing investigation. One could hear back in less than three weeks or more than three months; there is no exact timeline. If you are concerned, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact the Case Management Team handling cases in the state of your school.
Q: Does filing a Clery Act complaint cost any money?
Q: Can I submit a complaint anonymously?
A: Yes, you can submit your story anonymously, but it is generally best to have at least one person who is willing to be a contact/point person. If you do not use your name, Clery will not be able to investigate your individual case or ask to see school files related to your case. If you’re filing with a group of people, it is best to have at least one person include their name and serve as a point of contact for Clery.
Even if you do include your name, Clery will not share your testimony, or the fact that you filed a complaint, with your school or anyone else. However, they may ask to see the school’s files related to your case. These files will not be shown to anyone else.
Q: Will Clery tell my parents or the media about the fact that I filed?
Q: Will Clery tell me school that I filed?
A: If you use your name and the school has a file from your case, Clery will request to see those files, but they are private and should not be shown to anyone else.
Q: I submitted my complaint, but then my college violated Clery again, do I submit a new complaint?
A: You do not need to submit a new complaint, you can just simply email Clery@ed.gov with the subject line of your school and update the information.
Q: Should I detail “more” or “less” information in the complaint?
A: You should include whatever information you feel comfortable sharing. Too many details are better than too few, as the details you give will help the Department of Education in its investigation. The focus of your testimony should be on how your school violated your rights. As such, you don’t necessarily need to give a detailed account of your original assault or harassment, though you can certainly include such information if you are comfortable doing so and feel that it would add to your narrative.
If you can offer specifics – names, dates, locations – do so, but there’s no requirement to do so. Again, you don’t have to worry about legalese. The Department of Education wants anyone to feel able to submit testimony, regardless of background or training, so give your account in language that feels comfortable to you. If you want someone to read over your testimony, you can contact us. We promise to remain confidential.
Q: What happens if my school retaliates against me?
A: The Clery Act prohibits any form of retaliation. Of course, just because something is prohibited doesn’t mean it won’t happen, or else you wouldn’t be filing your complaint to begin with. If you believe your school is retaliating against you after you’ve filed your complaint, you can send an update to email@example.com. Your school’s name should be in your subject line.
In the meanwhile, you may want to turn to other sources of support. You can also reach out to the Clery Center, who will help provide you with general legal information for no charge and can provide referrals for legal counsel and other advocacy providers.
Q: What will Clery “do” if my school is found in violation?
A: Clery has the capacity to fine up to $35,000 per violation.
Q: Will my complaint affect the ability of other students to access financial aid?
A: An institution’s compliance with the Clery Act is tied to its participation in federal student financial aid programs, and the institution may be fined up to $35,000 per violation. If such fines are imposed upon the conclusion of a Clery investigation or if your school’s participation in these federal financial aid programs is affected, it will certainly impact your school’s budget. However, school budgets increase and decrease annually, and usually do so without substantially affecting financial aid awards. Your school is more likely to find money for financial aid elsewhere in its budget, because ceasing to offer sufficient financial aid awards after being found responsible in a Clery complaint would only further harm the school’s public image.
Your legal rights should not be held hostage by your school or by your classmates. Ultimately, if Clery finds your school in violation, your school, and not you, is responsible for any repercussion for failing to follow the law and protect your rights.
Q: What if I have other questions?
A: Please take a look at our other resource guides to see if your question is covered elsewhere. In addition, the Clery Center for Security On Campus provides free technical assistance; you can contact them at (484) 580-8754 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although these resources have been written with the guidance of legal experts, we are not lawyers, and the information on this website does not constitute legal advice. We encourage you to contact a lawyer to discuss your complaint or suit.