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Negligent Security Seminar | March 2015

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    Many Universities Underreport Crime Statistics – Here’s What Parents Should Know

    As a parent, sending your son or daughter to college is an exciting yet scary step. While most colleges and universities strive to provide supportive learning environments where students can expand their knowledge and gain valuable skills to help them complete the transition to adulthood, it can be difficult for even the most well-managed institutions to eliminate on-campus crime.

    Whether perpetrated by students, staff or faculty, or intruders who make their way onto campus, most colleges and universities experience some incidents of violent crime each year—yet many underreport the problem, making their campus environments seem safer than they really are. Studies indicate that this is particularly common when it comes to sexual assaults. For instance, a 2016 study conducted by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found that 89% of colleges and universities reported zero incidents of rape and 77% reported zero incidents of sexual assault, including dating violence and stalking. In contrast to these statistics, a study published by the American Psychological Association found that when institutions were undergoing audits by the Department of Education, the reported numbers of sexual assaults increased by 44% on average—indicating that some schools provided a more accurate picture of these on-campus attacks only when they were under federal scrutiny.

    In light of these troubling statistics, parents and students can take the following steps when choosing a college:

    • Review the campus security report. Under the Clery Act, all postsecondary institutions that receive federal funding are required to collect and publicly report data regarding crimes that occur on campus, as well as information about the school’s safety policies. These reports should be readily available on the school’s website.
    • Talk to current and past students and faculty about the campus environment. While the federally required security reports offer a good starting point, the problem of underreporting crime remains. Speaking with current and past students and faculty about how safe they feel on campus and steps that the school takes to ensure security may provide more accurate insight.
    • When touring the campus, look for and ask about safety measures. For example, ask how the residence halls are secured, look for security cameras, and visit the campus at night to determine if there is adequate lighting.
    • If you suspect that your college student has been the victim of a violent crime on campus, contact an attorney immediately. Colleges and universities have a legal duty to provide safe environments for their students. If they do not fulfill this duty—such as by failing to warn the campus community of known threats or by having inadequate security measures—they may subject to civil liability if students or faculty become the victims of a crime.

    With extensive experience representing victims of violent crimes, including sexual assaults, the trauma-informed team at Leighton Law has an in-depth understanding of the legal responsibilities that colleges and universities have to keep students safe. If you or your child has been the victim of a violent crime, call us today at 888.988.1774 to schedule a consultation.


    Article by:

    John Leighton

    A nationally-recognized trial lawyer who handles catastrophic injury and death cases. He manages Leighton Law, P.A. trial lawyers, with offices in Miami and Orlando, Florida. He is President of The National Crime Victim Bar Association, author of the 2-volume textbook,Litigating Premises Security Cases, and past Chairman of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America’s Motor Vehicle, Highway & Premises Liability Section. Having won some of the largest verdicts in Florida history, Mr. Leighton is listed inThe Best Lawyers in America (14 years), “Top Lawyers” in the South Florida Legal Guide (15 years), Top 100 Florida SuperLawyer™ and Florida SuperLawyers (14 years), “Orlando Legal Elite” by Orlando Style magazine, and FloridaTrend magazine “Florida Legal Elite


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