Missing Student Notification Policy


Policy Statement

This policy is established by Washington and Lee University in compliance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008.


This policy applies to all students at Washington and Lee University.


For the purposes of this policy, a student may be considered to be a "missing person" if the student's absence from campus is contrary to his or her usual pattern of behavior and W&L has reasonable belief that the unusual circumstances may have caused the absence. Such circumstances may include, but not be limited to: a report or suspicion that the student may be a victim of foul play; the student has expressed suicidal thoughts, may be drug dependent or in a life threatening situation; or if the student is overdue returning to campus and is not heard from after giving a specific return time to friends or family.

If a member of the University Community has reason to believe that a student is missing, whether or not the student resides on campus, that individual should contact the university's Public Safety. Public Safety will collaborate with the Student Affairs staff to make an effort to locate the student and determine his or her state of health and well-being. Public Safety will gather pertinent information about the student from the reporting person. Such information may include description, cellular phone number, clothes last worn, vehicle description, information about the physical and emotional well being of the student, an up-to-date photograph, etc.

University officials will also endeavor to determine the student's whereabouts through contact with friends, associates, and/or employers of the student, and determine whether the student has been attending classes, scheduled organizational or academic meetings, and work. If the student is an on-campus resident, Public Safety may make a welfare entry into the student's room. If the student resides off-campus, Public Safety will informally enlist the aid of the neighboring police agency having jurisdiction.

If a residential student is reported missing and cannot be located, certain notices will be made as follows:

  • Parents/Guardians will be notified within 24 hours (after Public Safety receives the initial missing person report) to determine whether they know the whereabouts of the student.
  • Local law enforcement will be notified within 24 hours after Public Safety determines that the student is missing.
  • The student's designated emergency contact (if any) will be notified once Public Safety or local law enforcement personnel make a determination that the student has been missing for more than 24 hours.

If the student is an off-campus resident, Public Safety will notify the appropriate family members or associates within 24 hours of receiving the initial report. These individuals will then be encouraged to make an official missing-person report to the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction. Public Safety will cooperate, aid, and assist the primary investigate agency as appropriate.

After the student has been located, Public Safety will attempt to verify the student's state of health and intention of returning to the campus. When and where appropriate, a referral may be made to the Counseling Center and/or the Student Health Center.

Designation of Emergency Contact Information

Students will be given an opportunity at the beginning of each academic term to designate an individual to be contacted by the University if the student is determined to be missing. Returning and transfer students will be given an opportunity to provide this information during the fall term. The designation will remain in effect until changed or revoked by the student. The form provided for designation will state the circumstances in which the designated emergency contact information will be used, and will include a statement that the University is required by law to also notify the student's custodial parent or guardian if the student is under 18 at the time he or she is discovered to be missing. Students are advised that their contact information will be registered confidentially, will be accessible only to authorized W&L officials, and will not be disclosed to any third party except to law enforcement personnel in furtherance of a missing person investigation.

Communications About Missing Students

  1. In accordance with established University emergency procedures, the Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs will be part of the University's administrative response team and is the designated spokesperson to handle media inquiries concerning a missing student.
  2. The local law enforcement agency in charge of the investigation and Public Safety will each be consulted by the Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs prior to any information release from the university so as not to jeopardize any investigation.
  3. Information provided to the media to elicit public assistance in the search for the missing person will be handled by the local law enforcement agency.
Revision History

Revised January 14, 2020 to replace "fall-term matriculation" with "the beginning of each academic term" for the designation of emergency contact information.