CUNNINGHAM-RUIZ BILL TO REQUIRE HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS TO REPORT CRIME STATS TO THEIR GOVERNING BOARD ADVANCES

Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham, D-Hudson, listens to testimony during the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee’s hearing on the FY 2011 Budget bills.

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Sandra Bolden Cunningham and M. Teresa Ruiz that would require the administration of public colleges and universities to regularly report on-campus criminal and fire events to their institution’s governing board was approved yesterday by the Senate Higher Education Committee.

An expansion of the “Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act,” or Clery Act, the legislation (S-485) would require presidents of New Jersey’s public institutions of higher education to report to their governing boards at regular meetings all crimes, fires and other emergencies which occurred on campus during the previous reporting period.

The report would have to include counts and classifications of all criminal and fire incidents which occurred on campus and were recorded by campus security and campus or local police and fire departments as well as a list of campus alerts, threats or emergencies.

“It is intuitive to require our colleges and universities to report incidents which may pose significant danger to the health and safety of our students and employees on campus,” said Senator Cunningham, D-Hudson, Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee. “This legislation calls for the necessary transparency in the reporting of campus events that will help guide governing boards to make informed decisions in the best overall interest of our colleges and universities.”

Colleges and universities are already required to collect and report the information to the U.S. Department of Education, but in the past have not been required to provide crime statistics, incidents or threats to their own governing bodies. The bill, S-485, serves to prevent a governing board from arguing a lack of knowledge, as what happened in the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State University, if incidents are being reported in a timely manner on their campuses.

“This bill requires that on-campus incidents are regularly reported to the institution’s governing board,” said Senator Ruiz, D-Essex, Chair of the Senate Education Committee. “This will allow board members to respond in a timely matter to emergent situations and to take the action that is necessary to keep the students and campus community safe.”

The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate Higher Education Committee.  It now heads to the Senate for consideration.

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