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Offices & Services

Public Safety

Missing Student Policy

I. Introduction

a. If a member of the Washington College Community has reason to believe a student is missing, they should contact the Department of Public Safety immediately.

b. Whether or not a student resides on campus, efforts will be made to locate the student to determine his or her location and well-being. These efforts may be aided by collaboration local law enforcement.

II. Definitions

a. For purposes of this policy, a student may be considered a “missing student” if the student’s absence is contrary to his/her usual pattern of behavior and unusual circumstances may have caused the absence. Such circumstances could include, but are not be limited to:

  • A report or suspicion that the missing person may be the victim of foul play.
  • The missing student has expressed suicidal thoughts.
  • The missing student is drug dependent.
  • The missing student is in a life-threatening situation.
  • The missing student has been with persons who may endanger the student’s welfare.

III. On-Campus Missing Student Investigations

a. When an on-campus resident student is reported to be missing, Public Safety will:

  • Gather all essential information about the person (description, clothes last worn, where the subject might be, who they might be with, vehicle description, etc.). An up to date photograph may be obtained to aid in the search.
  • Appropriate campus staff will be notified to aid in the search of the individual.
  • A quick but thorough search will be conducted of campus.
  • Public Safety will secure authorization and make a welfare entry into the student’s room.
  • Class schedules will be obtained and a search of classrooms will be conducted.

b. If the above actions are unsuccessful in locating the student or if in the judgment of Public Safety or local law enforcement staff it is likely the person is actually missing, the student will be determined to be a missing student by either Public Safety or appropriate local law enforcement staff. Once the determination is made that the student is missing, the investigation will be turned over to the appropriate local law enforcement agency. Once the investigation is turned over to local law enforcement, Public Safety will aid local law enforcement in continuing to determine the student’s whereabouts.

c. No later than 24 hours after determining a student is missing, Public Safety or the primary investigative agency will notify the student’s emergency contact.

IV. Off-Campus Missing Student Investigations

a. If the student is an off-campus resident, appropriate family members or associates will be encouraged to make an official missing person report to the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction.

b. Public Safety will cooperate, aid, and assist the primary investigative agency in all ways prescribed by law.

V. Procedures for Designation of Emergency Contact Information

a. No later than 24 hours after determining that a student is missing, Public Safety or the primary investigative agency will notify the student’s emergency contact.

b. For students who are under the age of 18 and not emancipated, the College will contact a custodial parent or guardian.

c. Prior to checking in to an on-campus housing facility, students over the age of 18, or students who are emancipated, will be given the opportunity to designate an emergency contact who will be contacted in the event the student is reported as missing. An emergency contact will remain in effect until changed or revoked by the student.  This contact information is registered confidentially, and will be accessible only to authorized campus officials and law enforcement.  It will not be disclosed outside of a missing person investigation.

d. Emergency contact information will be stored in a student’s file in the Student Affairs Office. A student can update emergency contact information by emailing the Student Affairs Office at student_affairs@washcoll.edu.

VI. Conclusion of Investigation

a. If located, verification of the student’s well-being and intention of returning to the campus is made. If needed, the student will be referred to campus or community resources (counseling, medical, etc.).

b. Upon closure of a missing person investigation, all parties previously contacted will be advised of the status of the case.

VII. Campus Communication About Missing Students

a. In cases involving missing persons, law enforcement personnel are best situated to provide information to the media that is designed to elicit public assistance in the search for a missing person.

b. All communications regarding missing students will be handled by the Director of Public Safety and outside law enforcement authorities, who may consult with the Office of College Relations and Marketing.

c. All inquiries to the College regarding missing students, or information provided to any individual at the College about a missing student, shall be referred to the Office of Public Safety, who shall refer such inquiries and information to law enforcement authorities.

d. Prior to providing the Washington College community with any information about a missing student, the Office of College Relations and Marketing shall consult with Public Safety and with local law enforcement authorities to ensure that communications do not hinder the investigation.

VIII. Policy Disclosure

a. At least once a year Public Safety will make students aware of the Missing Student Policy. This notification shall inform students they have the option to indicate an emergency contact and if they were to be reported missing their emergency contact would be notified within 24 hours.