Liberty University hit with record $14M fine for flouting federal crime reporting laws

Liberty University hit with record $14M fine for flouting federal crime reporting laws © Provided by NBC News

Liberty University will pay a record $14 million fine for flouting campus crime reporting laws, the U.S. Department of Education announced Tuesday.

The conservative Christian school will also spend another $2 million on campus safety improvements related to the Clery Act, which requires campuses that receive federal funds to report crime statistics, the department said.

The school in Lynchburg, Virginia, founded by the late Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell, will be monitored for two years to ensure it follows the safety guidelines, the department said in the settlement agreement.

Rich Cordray, chief operating officer for student aid with the Department of Education, said the goal of the Clery Act is to create “safe and secure campus communities” and “responsibly disclose information about crimes and other safety concerns.”

“We will continue to hold schools accountable if they fail to do so,” he said.

The fine is the largest on record for Clery Act violations, the federal student aid office said. It capped a two-year federal investigation that found Liberty University officials systemically underreported complaints about crime and dissuaded students from reporting complaints.

It also found the school lacked the resources to investigate complaints, failed to report a stalking incident involving a student athlete, retaliated against a worker who raised a Clery Act concern, and erased evidence related to the DOE investigation.

Liberty University acknowledged the settlement agreement in a statement, conceding “there were numerous deficiencies that existed in the past.”

“We acknowledge and sincerely regret past program deficiencies and have since corrected these errors with great care and concern,” it said.

The school also alleged that it was the victim of “selective and unfair treatment” by the Department of Education.

“In the report, many of the Department’s methodologies, findings, and calculations were drastically different from their historic treatment of other universities,” it said. “Liberty disagrees with this approach and maintains that we have repeatedly endured selective and unfair treatment by the Department.”