Oklahoma’s Open Records Act doesn’t require state universities and colleges to keep a public log of reported crimes.
But a federal law does.
The Clery Act requires public and private post-secondary schools that receive federal funding and maintain a police or security department to keep a daily crime log that is open to public inspection and is readily understandable. (34 CFR 668.46(f)) (20 USC §1092(f)(4)(A)(B))
The statute also imposes a number of important conditions on those crime logs that differ from the Open Records Act’s requirements for such records, including:
- Crimes must be added to the log within two business days of their initial report to the campus police or the campus security department.
- This time requirement also covers any addition to an entry or change in the disposition of a complaint. For example, federal education officials note, if the disposition of a crime is “pending” and an arrest is made later, the school has two business days to update the disposition on the original entry.
- Schools aren’t required to update dispositions for crimes more than 60 days old.
- A business day is defined Monday through Friday, except for days when the school is closed.
- The only exceptions to this rule are if the disclosure is prohibited by law or would jeopardize the confidentiality of the victim.
- The log is required to include the nature, date (occurred and reported), time and general location of each crime, and its disposition if known.
- The description of the location must mean something to the campus community.
- But the location must not lead to identification of the victim.
- Victims’ names must be redacted. This requirement supersedes the state Open Records Act, which has no such provision.
- Schools may temporarily withhold information only if there is clear and convincing evidence that the release of information would:
- Jeopardize an ongoing investigation;
- Jeopardize the safety of an individual;
- Cause a suspect to flee or evade detection; or
- Result in the destruction of evidence.
- The school may withhold only the information that could cause the adverse effect.
- That information must be disclosed once the adverse effect is no longer likely.
- The person deciding to withhold the information should document the reason.
- The crime log for the most-recent 60 days must be open to public inspection, upon request, during normal business hours.
- Schools may not require a written request.
- Anyone may have access to the log, including media not associated with the school.
- Logs older than 60 days must be made available for inspection within two business days of the request.
- The Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting, U.S. Department of Education.
- Student Media Guide to the Clery Act, Student Press Law Center.
- Summary Of The Jeanne Clery Act, Security on Campus Inc.
- Reporter’s Guide to FERPA: Navigating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, SPJ.
Joey Senat, Ph.D.
OSU School of Media & Strategic Communications