By Julia Contarelli
An attempted sexual assault in Ornelas B from 2014, later classified as “unfounded”, was not included in TJC’s required annual security report.
All colleges are required to release an annual security report. Listing all crimes committed in the past year, including: criminal homicide, sex offenses, forcible sex offenses, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, arson, weapons possession, liquor law violations, drug related violations, hate crimes and crimes unfounded.
“Starting with the 2014 report, which was due in October 2015, colleges are supposed to make a notation indicating ‘we ruled X number of cases to be unfounded’ so that people know if the college is excessively writing off complaints without properly investigating them,” said Frank D. LoMonte, Executive Director of the Student Press Law Center.
The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) required reporting of “unfounded” crimes for the previous three years, based on concerns that cases were classified as “unfounded”, to not be included in the annual security report
“When it comes to sexual assault and rape, the norm for universities and colleges is to downplay the situation and the numbers,” said researcher Corey Rayburn Yung, JD who is a law professor at the University of Kansas. “The result is students at many universities continue to be attacked and victimized, and punishment isn’t meted out to the rapists and sexual assaulters.”
The new reauthorization was made to assure this downplay won’t happen.
According to the VAWA Reauthorization Act, “we have added a new 668.46(c)(2)(iii)(A) requiring an institution to report to the Department, and to disclose in its annual security report, the number of crime reports listed in 668.46(c)(1) that were “unfounded” and subsequently withheld from its crime statistics pursuant to 668.46(c)(2)(iii) during each of the three most recent calendar years.”
President Obama signed the VAWA Reauthorization into law on March 7, 2013. The Department of Education issued its final regulation on Oct. 20, 2014. The regulations went into effect for all colleges on July 1, 2015.
The annual report of each year is due on Oct. 1 of the subsequent year. This made the report of 2014 due on Oct. 1, 2015.
Campus Police Chief Randy Melton is the one responsible for creating the annual security report.
“It’s an interpretation, Chief of Police Melton interpreted that the first year that ‘unfounded’ needed to be reported was 2015,” said Kimberly Lessner, TJC Executive Director of Marketing, Media and Communications.
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Clery Act handbook:
“Beginning with the reports due in 2015, institutions have been required to include in the Web-based survey and the annual security report statistics for the total number of crime reports that were ‘‘unfounded’’ and subsequently withheld from crime statistics during each of the three most recent calendar years.”
Reports due in 2015, including the 2014 report fall under the Reauthorization Act.
Lessner said that in the form to fill out the number of cases, on the U.S. Department of Education website, there is no input on 2014 for Crimes “Unfounded”. Although, Kilgore College reported two cases as “unfounded” on the same website for 2014.
The annual security report, on the college’s website, does not need a specific input, it is a Microsoft Word document table. There is the ability to make a new row, CRIMES UNFOUNDED, as it was done for the 2015 report.
According to Lessner:
“TJC Campus Police have placed a call to the Department of Education to ensure that all TJC crime reporting statistics are fulfilled per the requirements. If any discrepancies are found, corrections will be made immediately to any impacted reports.”
Under the Clery Act, universities and colleges may face fines of up to $35,000 per violation of federal crime reporting requirements.