Green River College President Suzanne Johnson does not dispute a 2017 review that found the school had violated statutory and regulatory requirements, but said the college would appeal the Department of Education’s hefty fine of $574,500. FILE PHOTO

Green River College President Suzanne Johnson does not dispute a 2017 review that found the school had violated statutory and regulatory requirements, but said the college would appeal the Department of Education’s hefty fine of $574,500. FILE PHOTO

Green River College fined $574,500 for violations

Department of Education’s review found school failed to report crime statistics and inform the public

Late last year, the U.S. Department of Education determined that between 2009 and 2013, Green River College had failed to meet its obligations under the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act and under a federal consumer protection law that requires it to report campus crime statistics and dictates how college campuses report them to the public.

Last Thursday, Sept. 27, the DOE notified GRC of its intention to fine the institution more than half-a-million dollars.

Wednesday afternoon, GRC President Suzanne Johnson said the college would appeal the $574,500 fine.

“While we do not dispute the majority of the findings in the Program Review Determination, we do dispute the total amount and method of determining the fine,” Johnson said in her message to the college community.

The violations occurred before Johnson took office in 2017.

Among the 13 findings, the DOE’s report cited the college’s “lack of administrative capability,” and its failures: “to compile and disclose accurate and complete crime statistics; to properly disclose crime statistics by location; to maintain an accurate and complete crime log; to maintain an accurate and complete fire log; to properly request crime statistics from local law enforcement agencies; to comply with Drug and Alcohol Abuse Prevention Program requirements; and to actively notify prospective students of the college’s 2014 and 2015 annual safety reports and annual fire safety reports.”

Johnson asserted that GRC has made significant strides to address the previous shortcomings as recognized by the Administrative Actions and Appeals Service Group, and that the National Association of Clery Compliance Officers and Professionals (NACCOP) named Green River College as the Most Improved Clery Compliance Program at its 2017 Annual NACCOP Conference Recognition Ceremony.

The aforementioned award, Johnson noted, recognizes programs that have significantly improved within the last 3-5 years by overcoming historical weaknesses of the compliance program and working to address shortcomings while enhancing the institution’s capacity for complying with the Clery Act.

Compliance with Clery is required for Title IV funding, and Green River received more than $13 million in Title IV funding in 2015-2016.

To set its ship right, Johnson noted that GRC has taken the following steps:

• Created an internal Clery Compliance Committee in 2015 with representatives from campus safety, Title IX, housing, judicial affairs, facilities, college relations and human resources;

• Hired a new director of campus safety and an assistant director of campus safety;

• Implemented new technology to track and code Clery crimes;

• Provided additional training for staff responsible for Clery reporting;

• Improved transparency of communications for college issues that present safety concerns.

• In May of 2016, changed the crime incident log to “Report Exec,” nationally-recognized software that supports Clery information reporting requirements, including specific location data and incident report disposition; and

• Reviewed and re-mapped all Green River College Clery geography to establish areas the Clery Act defines as “on campus, on-campus residential and public property.”

Regardless of the outcome of the appeal on the fine amount, Johnson said, college operations will not be impacted, nor will there be any negative effects to students or staff.

“It is essential that the institution maintain sound stewardship of our resources,” Johnson wrote. “The college implemented substantial revisions and improvements to campus safety, policies, and crime reporting protocols to comply with the Clery Act. I am hopeful that based on the actions taken, we will receive a reduction in the fine.”

The U.S. Department of Education began its on-site program review to evaluate Green River College’s compliance with both federal acts on Nov. 16, 2015.

For more on the review, visit online.

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