July 20, 2016

IOA Pushes Back on Department of Education's Stance on Clery Act

The International Ombudsman Association has responded to a recent statement by the U.S. Department of Education that Ombuds "generally meet the criteria" for mandatory reporting of campus crimes under the Clery Act.  For many years,  whether an Ombuds would be required to break confidentiality and report details of crimes has been considered a non-issue within the profession. A letter from IOA President Reese Ramos explains how the Department's updated handbook for Clery compliance "seriously misrepresents" the role of Ombuds.

Here's the IOA Special Bulletin advising its members about the situation:
Greetings IOA Members,
The purpose of this message is to update you on action the International Ombudsman Association is taking in response to the Department of Education’s “Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting 2016 Edition” published in June. The Higher Education Act requires all post-secondary institutions participating in Title IV student financial assistance programs to disclose campus statistics on crime and security. The handbook is a guide for academic institutions and is meant to help ensure compliance by defining requirements, including defining “Campus Security Authorities” (CSAs) that must disclose all reports of crime.
In the prior edition of the DOE handbook ombuds were not categorized as CSAs and so it was disconcerting to discover in this latest handbook that ombuds were listed, along with a number of other campus entities, as an example of “individuals (outside of a police or security department) who generally meet the criteria for being campus security authorities.”
IOA has always maintained, and will continue to assert, that categorizing ombuds as CSAs is in conflict with our duties of confidentiality, informality, neutrality and independence. Accordingly, with the guidance of IOA's Title IX Task Force, and the IOA Board’s authorization, I have drafted a formal response on behalf of IOA to the DOE.
The letter to the DOE explains why it is incorrect to include Ombuds as an example of “generally meeting the criteria” for being classified as CSAs and also request of the DOE that they correct this error.

I will keep you updated of the DOE’s response and any other developments. In the meantime, I hope that this formal letter, along with our recently published memo on Title IX will serve you and your respective campuses as we help stakeholders better understand the role of the ombuds and the importance of confidential resources for students in post-secondary institutions.
Reese Ramos
IOA Board President
(IOA Special Bulletin.)

Related posts: IOA Takes Position on Proposed SEC Ombuds Program; IOA Takes a Stand on Title IX Issues; Update: Additional Info Clarifies Chronicle of Philanthropy Article About Red Cross Ombuds; IOA President Returns to Lead Board for Second Term; IOA Annual Report: Association Builds on Strategic Plan in 2015; 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.

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