students wearing masks

COVID-19 Cluster Notification Requirement

The Jeanne Clery Disclosure Act

The Clery Act Description

The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act or Clery Act, signed in 1990, is a federal statute codified at 20 U.S.C. § 1092(f), with implementing regulations in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations at 34 C.F.R. 668.46.

The Clery Act requires all colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs to keep and disclose information about crime on and near their respective campuses. Compliance is monitored by the United States Department of Education, which can impose civil penalties, up to $58,328[2] per violation, against institutions for each infraction and can suspend institutions from participating in federal student financial aid programs.

The law is named after Jeanne Clery, a 19-year-old Lehigh University student whom Joseph Henry raped and murdered in her campus hall of residence in 1986. Henry’s murder of Ms. Clery triggered a backlash against unreported crime on campuses across the country.[3]

COVID-19 Cluster Disclosure Requirement

The U.S. Department of Education publishes The Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting. Section 6.2 of the handbook specifically identifies “serious illness” as a significant emergency that requires notification of the campus community. The head of the Clery Compliance Office has made clear that the Department of Education requires universities to identify buildings and, where applicable, related organizations where clusters of COVID-19 cases appear so that the campus community has sufficient information to make informed decisions as to how to protect themselves.

COVID-19 Cluster Determination Protocol

Texas A&M University (Texas A&M) compliance in identification and reporting a COVID-19 cluster includes a multifaced approach in evaluation criteria across indicators, variables, and response measures.

Indicators

In determining potential Clusters and appropriate response, the following will be considered:

1. Number of COVID-19 positive cases

The first indicator Texas A&M will utilize in determining the occurrence of a Cluster is the number of individuals with a COVID-19 positive test attributable to a specific event, or group (Population). Suspected cases will not be utilized for this determination.

2. Timeframe encompassing cases

Texas A&M will evaluate positive cases within the applicable population both at specific times and through time. While a certain number of cases at a particular date may equate to a cluster, we will also be evaluating the proliferation through time of cases that might be in a specific population.

3. Case attributable to a specific event, location, or group

Evaluation of a sharp increase in cases for a specific population will need to be evaluated as to the potential for how widespread the exposure may have been and whether it is attributable to an event or series of events. Likewise, increases or repetitive series of cases will assist in developing mechanisms to enhance prevention programs.

Variables

In evaluating potential clusters, Texas A&M will consider the following variables:

1. Population

Size of the population in relation to number of individuals with positive tests for COVID-19 and in terms of the number of potential individuals exposed will be evaluated. Given the vast differences in size of a respective population, this will be an important step in determining how to evaluate a Cluster.

2. Activities

Evaluation of potential hot spots will consider what activities the population has in common, how often the activities take place, and how that may increase the past or future potential for virus spread.

3. Mitigation

Populations that are suspected of becoming a Cluster will be reviewed for compliance with current guidance on ways individuals can decrease the spread of COVID-19. Items such as vaccination status, physical distancing, wearing of face coverings, cleanings, and other preventive measures will be considered. Lack of compliance will increase the likelihood of virus spread and the likelihood of a cluster.

Reporting at Texas A&M University Bryan-College Station Campus

Clusters are reported as required through the Clery Act in the table below and updated as new cluster cases are identified. Note that cluster designation period for organizations or locations is in place for 14 days, although some individuals within the cluster may extend beyond the period of the organization’s status as a whole.

Reported Cluster Effective Date
Kappa Kappa Gamma 8/20/2020
Delta Delta Delta 8/20/2020
Corps Squadron-17 (Dorm 7) 9/2/2020
Corps Squadron-4 (Dorm 7) 9/30/2020
Aggie Band (Artillery Band, Dorm 12) 11/9/2020
Emergency Medical Services (Events) 11/9/2020
Kappa Alpha Theta 11/13/2020
Corps Squadron-12 (Dorm 9) 2/24/2021
Dorm 9 2/25/2021

Anti-Targeting

The university reminds the campus community against using public safety notifications to target persons or groups for the purposes of shaming, harassment or threats. Doing so may create a chilling effect that could impede the reporting of positive cases to the Texas A&M University System reporting portal and may violate university policy.

Texas A&M Cluster Response and Mitigation Measures

Texas A&M is focused on continuing in-person learning experience and is taking steps to ensure that is achieved. While some schools have mandated pre-attendance testing and/or have suspended all in-person activities, Texas A&M believes in the value of being on campus. As clusters emerge, in-person ability will be restricted for a short period of time for some in order to continue offering in-person education through the fall. Every person associated with Texas A&M has a role to play in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and ensuring the college experience continues in Aggieland.

In evaluating potential clusters, Texas A&M will utilize some or all of the following measures:

  1. Further Monitoring of Applicable Population
  2. Targeted testing
  3. Continuing Education on Appropriate Prevention Measures
  4. Requested Cleanings for Facilities under Texas A&M Control
  5. Suspension of access to face-to-face classes/meetings/gatherings for applicable population, including student organizations
  6. Self-isolation/quarantine of population/individuals*

*in these instances, Texas A&M cannot impact individual right to not self-isolate/quarantine; however, impacted individuals will be required to remain off campus unless quarantined in university housing or receiving health care.