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New bill will provide access to campus crime information

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Congressmen John J. Duncan Jr. and Charles E. Schumer introduced a bill Feb. 12 to close the loopholes in the reporting of crimes and crime statistics on college and university campuses.

The Accuracy in Campus Crime Reporting Act of 1997 will specify information to be included in annual crime statistics reports currently monitored by the Department of Education. It will require each institution of higher education to keep a public crime log the same way other law enforcement authorities must under open records law. The bill will also clarify use of the Buckley Amendment--also known as the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act or FERPA--to open criminal misconduct disciplinary proceedings. Finally, the bill will establish minimum monetary sanctions for non-compliance.

"In short, this bill requires campus police forces to act more like local police forces in providing security and protection for its citizens," said Steve Geimann, president of the Society of Professional Journalists. "The public deserves to know how a crime incident is resolved by campus authorities. We think campus proceedings should be open, too."

SPJ has worked with Security on Campus, Inc. and the 13 other journalism organizations that make up the Campus Courts Task Force for more than four years to draft the legislation. The task force was founded in 1993 to challenge restrictions on access to campus judicial proceedings and to educate the public about colleges' attempts to hide crime information in secret campus courts.

"Part of SPJ's mission as an organization is to foster greater public access to government and issues important to the lives of individuals," said Carolyn S. Carlson, chair of the Campus Courts Task Force. "This bill is very important to anyone who has anything to do with colleges--the students, the faculty, the parents and the neighbors. We urge all of them to contact their legislators and encourage them to vote in favor of the public's right to know."

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