Missing Student Notification Policy

Effective Date: October 1, 2021
Responsible Official: Vice President for Student Affairs
Responsible University Offices: Office of Student Affairs, Dean of Students Office; Division of Public Safety
Date of Last Review: March 18, 2024
Review Period: 5 years
Relates to: Faculty, Staff, Students, Postdocs


Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) is committed to creating and preserving a safe and secure environment for all students.  To support our commitment, this policy establishes a framework for cooperation among members of the university community aimed at locating and assisting enrolled students who are suspected to be missing.

The Office of the Dean of Students implements this policy pursuant to federal requirements. The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA) requires institutions participating in a Title IV federal student financial aid program and maintaining on-campus housing facilities to establish an effective missing student notification policy and procedures. While HEOA requires the University to establish this policy for residential students, this policy applies to both residential and nonresidential students.


Residential Student: an enrolled student who resides on campus, in overflow housing under the University’s control, and off-campus students in a study abroad program

Nonresidential Student: an enrolled student who resides off campus

Members of University Community: all employees (faculty and staff) and students

Missing Student: a student is defined as missing once the CWRU Public Safety makes a determination that the student is missing

Student Emergency Contact(s): a contact person(s) designated by students for the purpose of notification if a student is determined by CWRU Public Safety to be missing. If a Student Emergency Contact is not designated by a student, the University would provide the missing student notification to the student’s designated confidential or medical contact.

Reporting a Student who is Suspected to be Missing

Any person who suspects a residential or nonresidential enrolled student, regardless of location, may be missing should immediately notify CWRU Public Safety, which will take the lead in investigating each report and will make a determination whether the student is missing in accordance with this policy. In the event a university office receives a report of a student suspected to be missing, that office is responsible for immediately notifying Public Safety at 216.368.3333.

It is reasonable to suspect a student may be missing if the student’s absence is contrary to their usual pattern of behavior and unusual circumstances may have caused the absence. Such circumstances include, but are not limited to, excessive and unexplained absences, or a report or suspicion that the missing student may be in a dangerous or emergent situation.

Investigation and Determination

Public Safety investigates reports of students who are suspected of being missing, collaborating with the Division of Student Affairs and other university units and offices as needed.

When Public Safety receives information that a student is believed to be missing, it will inform the Dean of Students Office and initiate an investigation following the city of residence’s policies and timelines for investigating reports of missing persons. 

If the student is residing off-campus in a study abroad program, Public Safety will coordinate with the site to facilitate the investigation, including communication with hospitals, law enforcement, and other relevant agencies.

After completing the investigation, Public Safety will make a determination as to the status of the student and complete a missing student report. If Public Safety determines that a student is missing, it will notify local police or other appropriate law enforcement agencies within 24 hours. If a student resides outside of the university’s law enforcement jurisdiction, Public Safety will notify the appropriate local law enforcement agency within 24 hours. 

Upon Public Safety’s determination that a student is missing, the Dean of Student Office will:

  • Notify the student’s Student Emergency Contact within 24 hours;
  • Inform other university units, such as the school or college in which the student is enrolled, as needed; and
  • Initiate whatever action is deemed appropriate under the circumstances to be in the best interest of the missing student.

If the missing student is under eighteen (18) years of age and not an emancipated individual, the university shall notify a missing student’s custodial parent or guardian regardless of whether the student designated them as their Student Emergency Contact.

Communications About Missing Students

In accordance with established university emergency guidelines and procedures, the Vice President for Marketing and Communications, or designee, is the designated spokesperson to handle media inquiries concerning a missing student. The Vice President for Marketing and Communications, or designee, will consult the local law enforcement agency in charge of the investigation prior to releasing any information from CWRU so as not to jeopardize any investigation. The local law enforcement agency takes the lead in providing information to the media to elicit public assistance in the search for the missing person.

Option to Designate a Student Emergency Contact

All students have the option to identify a Student Emergency Contact for the purpose of receiving notification if Public Safety determines the student to be missing. The contact information may be added through the Student Information System (SIS). Only authorized university officials, campus security authorities, and law enforcement officers in furtherance of a missing person investigation may have access to the Student Emergency Contact information. In exigent circumstances, the emergency contact, or when not available, the medical contact, may be contacted to aid in determining the location of a missing student.

The Dean of Students Office is responsible for making the provisions of this policy and the accompanying procedures available to students. Such availability includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Included on the Dean of Students and the Public Safety webpages and on the Policy database website.
  • Included in student and parent enrollment communications.
  • Discussed during Orientation and Discover Week/Days events for all new/incoming/transfer students at the beginning of each semester.
  • Discussed during mandatory Residence Life meetings at the beginning of each semester.
  • Included in the Annual Campus Security and Fire Safety Report.

Student Emergency Contact Information Procedures

The Student Information System, more commonly known as the SIS, is the system of record for student information and to identify Student Emergency Contact(s) as provided in this policy. Students can click here to access the SIS to identify their emergency contact. It is the students’ responsibility to regularly update any changes to their contact information.