The Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act: What Student Affairs Professionals Need to Know

Article excerpt

The Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act (CSCPA) requires that states inform institutions of higher education when a registered sex offender enrolls or is employed at the institution. This article reviews the history and requirements of the CSCPA, reports the results of a study that estimated the number of sex offenders enrolled or employed at colleges and universities, and explores issues that this new law will raise for student affairs professionals.

The Campus Sex Crimes Prevention Act (CSCPA, 2000) became effective in October 2002. It requires that states inform institutions of higher education when a registered sex offender enrolls or is employed at the institution, and it includes reporting requirements for colleges and universities as well. The CSCPA has important legal, policy, and educational ramifications for colleges and universities, most of which are not yet widely understood. This article explores issues related to the CSCPA that will impact student affairs professionals. Included are a review of the history and requirements of the new law; the report of a study that estimates the number of sex offenders currently enrolled or employed at colleges and universities, establishing the general scope of the problem for most institutions; and an exploration of some issues that this new law will raise for student affairs professionals, in light of the findings of the study.

The CSCPA brings together the goals of Megan's Law (1996), which requires law enforcement agencies to inform residents when a convicted sex offender moves into their neighborhood, and the Clery Act (Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, 1990), which requires colleges and universities to provide the public with data pertaining to campus crime. The CSCPA, Megan's Law, and the Clery Act are all based on the principle that people will make appropriate choices for their own safety if they have access to accurate information regarding convicted criminals who are in their vicinity.

History and Requirements of the CSCPA

The CSCPA, which went into effect in October 2002, is an amendment to the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act (Wetterling Act, 1994). This law is named for 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling, who was abducted at gunpoint by a stranger in 1989 and has never been found (Jacob Wetterling Foundation, 2001). The Wetterling Act requires states to maintain a current registry of the addresses of convicted sex offenders when they leave prison and to inform local law enforcement agencies when a convicted sex offender moves into their community.

The Wetterling Act was amended in 1996 to require that law enforcement agencies share this information with the community in which the sex offender resides. This amendment is commonly called Megan's Law (1996), in honor of seven-year-old Megan Kanka, who in 1994 was abducted, raped, and murdered by twice-convicted sex offender Jesse Timmendequas (Bai, 1997). The underlying assumption of Megan's Law is that convicted sex offenders remain a danger to those around them even after the offenders have served their sentences, and that neighbors can protect themselves if they are armed with the knowledge that a convicted sex offender lives nearby.

The CSCPA extends the provisions of Megan's Law to colleges and universities. This new law requires registering sex offenders to report to the state's registering agency whenever they enroll or become employed at an institution of higher learning, on either a full- or part-time basis. Employment includes "vocation" and is defined by the CSCPA to include both paid and unpaid employment for any period of more than 14 consecutive days or for more than 30 aggregate days within a year. This requirement includes campus volunteers and also people such as employees of campus contractors if they meet the 14 day/30 clay requirement.

Once a convicted sex offender has informed the state registering agency of his or her presence at a college or university, the agency is then required to notify the campus police department of the presence of the offender at the institution. …