In accordance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, Meridian University has a set of procedures for its response to any reports of missing students. This applies to times when a school week/weekend is held at a retreat center with lodging where a student who is staying overnight is determined to be missing based on the facts and circumstances known to Meridian.
A student may be considered to be a missing person if the student’s absence is contrary to their usual pattern of behavior, and unusual circumstances may have caused the absence. In an academic environment, most missing person reports result from a student either not attending class or leaving the retreat center entirely without having informed anyone (such as cohort members, teaching assistants, faculty, or administrative staff) of their intended absence, for a significant period of time.
Anyone who believes a student to be missing should report their concern to a faculty member or administrative staff, who in turn will report the information to the Administrative Director. Every report made will be followed up with an immediate investigation once a student has been missing for 24 hours.
At the beginning of each academic year, all enrolled students are required to provide emergency contact information; a potential use of this information is in the event of a student being reported missing during school weekends/weeks. This emergency information is kept by the Director of Assessment and Student Development (DASD) and remains in effect until it is next revised by the student (either at the beginning of the next academic year or prior, if the student wishes to change it during the year).
Any individual on campus who has information that a student may be a missing person must notify a faculty member or administrative staff as soon as possible. The Administrative Director will then be notified as soon as possible.
The person initially receiving the report will gather and document the following information at the time of the report:
- The name and relationship of the person making the report
- The date, time, and location the missing student was last seen
- The general routine of the suspected missing student, including any recent changes in behavior or demeanor
Once notified, the Administrative Director will gather any additional, essential information about the student from the reporting person and from the student’s colleagues, such as clothes last worn, where the student might be, who the student might be with, any vehicle descriptions, the physical and mental well-being of the student, etc.
Additional Meridian staff may be notified to aid in the information gathering and search for the student. This step could include inspecting the bedroom where the student is staying, and/or obtaining the assistance of technology staff to access the school’s email log. The Administrative Director or designated representative will notify the student’s emergency contact to let them know that the student is believed to be missing, not later than 24 hours after determining that the student is missing.
If the above actions are unsuccessful in locating the student or it is immediately apparent that the student is a missing person, the Administrative Director will contact local law enforcement agencies to report the student as a missing person at which time the local law enforcement agencies will take charge of the investigation. All communications regarding missing students to the media (to elicit public assistance in the search for the student) will be handled by outside law enforcement authorities who may consult Meridian staff.