August 01, 2016

Coalition of Federal Ombudsman Weighs In on Clery Act

The interagency association that advocates for and supports Federal Ombuds has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education responding to a recent handbook that classifies Ombuds as mandatory reporters of crime statistics under the Clery Act.  The letter from COFO Chair Scott Deyo explicitly outlines concerns about confidentiality, which mirrors similar concerns in a recent letter from IOA on the same issue.  Although Federal Ombuds are not affected by the Clery Act, COFO shares the concern the change would undermine to professional duty of confidentiality that applies to all Ombuds.

The letter states:
Such confidentiality is not based on a subversive desire to mislead or hide matters from institutions or the public. Rather, confidentiality exists as a dutiful commitment to the people the ombudsman serves, and for all those who might consider contacting an ombuds, to not disclose private discussions without permission. Ombuds provide this commitment to confidentiality except in the very rare case where there appears to be an imminent risk of serious harm. 
* * *
The COFO Executive Committee recognizes that the Department of Education is ultimately responsible for promulgating implementation guidance. However, we strongly encourage ED to consider engaging in additional dialogue with stakeholders (e.g. campus ombuds) on this important matter.
(COFO Letter to Dept of Ed.)

Updated 8/2/16: The second sentence was revised to remove a reference that COFO was endorsing IOA's position. Federal employees are not allowed to endorse or show preference to a non-federal entity and COFO's letter does not. 

Related posts: CoFO Continues Work on Thorny Issues Facing Government OmbudsCOFO Collaborating With Federal Agencies Creating New Ombuds ProgramsCoalition of Federal Ombuds Eyes Strategic Initiatives; Coalition of Federal Ombuds Offers Advice to National Archives on Disposition of NSA Ombuds MaterialsCoalition of Federal Ombuds Announces Executive Officers  IOA Releases Memo Providing Legal Grounds for Ombuds Confidentiality in Title IX Matters; U.S. Department of Education Suggests University Ombuds Should Report Crime Statistics; IOA Pushes Back on Department of Education's Stance on Clery Act.


  1. Hey Tom,
    You don't have to post this comment but I just want to let you know that there is a typo on the second line in the first paragraph. I think you meant to say Department of Education, not Energy.

    1. You're right! There's a semi-funny backstory that explains why DOE was on my mind. Thanks for letting me know.