Safety Policies

SY42 Missing Student Policy

Policy Status: 


Policy Steward: 

Assistant Vice-President for Police and Public Safety / Director of Environmental Health and Safety



To provide guidance for responding to reports of missing students, including: the use of student emergency contact information; notification procedures; and University procedures to follow after a determination is made that a student is missing.

Penn State faculty and staff, in collaboration with campus and local law enforcement, will be guided by this policy and related operating procedures to locate missing students.


Effective August 14, 2008, the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 requires any institution participating in a Title IV federal student financial aid program that maintains on campus housing facilities to establish a missing student notification policy and related procedures (20 USC 1092 (j) Section 488 of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008).


Student - The University defines a student to be any person enrolled in any class or program of the University, full or part time.

Missing Student - For purposes of this policy, a student is defined as "missing" once the campus police or security department is notified and campus, regional or State Police initiate a formal missing person investigation.

AVP - For this policy, “AVP” refers to an Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs at University Park assigned to respond to student emergencies or the Director of Student Affairs at a Penn State Commonwealth campus.


If a member of the Pennsylvania State University community has reason to believe that a student is missing, all possible resources and efforts will be made to immediately locate the student to determine his or her state of health and well-being.

Although the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 requires this policy be established for residential campuses, within legal limitations, this protocol may also be applied to Penn State non-residential campuses within the boundaries of those campus communities. Although campus police or a security department does not have the primary responsibility to investigate a missing student incident involving a student living off campus, certain protocols within this policy may be applied to certain situations involving non-residential students. For example, we would expect that University staff and campus police would assist local authorities in their investigation of an off-campus Penn State student.

Effort to locate a student will be directed through collaboration of Student Affairs staff, campus police or security department, local/state authorities, and friends and family members of the missing student. When information is received by the University regarding a missing student, there will be no waiting period before an investigation is initiated.  All investigative procedures will be governed by Student Affairs policy and procedures and federal, state, and local law.

Initial Response

The first step in the process will be for staff to seek information related to the circumstances around the missing person allegation, then inform the campus police or security department.  Typically, the initial response will be coordinated by staff in Residence Life, other Student Affairs staff, and the campus police or security department. Staff should document the situation and create a factual written report while obtaining as many details as possible from persons reporting the incident. Initial staff investigations, prior to any formal police investigation, will include a thorough review of the student’s recent activity on campus which may include, but not be limited to, questioning the student’s roommates and friends, visiting the student's room or apartment, and a review of the student’s recent use of his/her ID card. While speaking with persons who reported the disappearance, staff should verify the accuracy of information previously provided. Understanding that in these types of incidents time is critical, the creation of a written report by Student Affairs staff should not deter them from "verbally sharing" important information with the campus police or security department.


The campus, regional or State Police, who are the investigative agency, will decide when to dispatch officers to conduct a formal investigation. Formal police investigations and community notifications will typically take place after the initial staff investigation on the whereabouts of the student. Although the formal investigation of a missing student is the responsibility of the police, University staff will have a role in supporting the police investigation by providing valuable report information to them. University staff should only record pertinent facts (see above) and not include speculative information.

The responding officers will be apprised by staff of all information and the police will obtain a photograph of the student. Unless special circumstances apply, the students photograph will be obtained from the campus ID office. Securing the student’s photo ID will require the designated Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs at University Park, or the senior Student Affairs administrator at the campus (hereafter referred to as "AVP"), to request in writing (through email) a copy of the photo ID from the Manager of the ID Office and Director of Information Systems for Auxiliary and Business Services. The Director of Information Systems for Auxiliary and Business Services or the Manager of the ID Office will send an electronic copy of the photo ID to the AVP, who will forward a copy of the photo ID to the campus police.

Staff will work with the police to obtain from friends or acquaintances any notes, records, recordings of telephone communications pertaining to the student. As University protocol would require, the campus police or security department will be present with the Student Affairs staff when they search the missing student’s room.  The search will be initiated to obtain academic, housing, foods service, and general student record information that will help support the police in their efforts to locate the missing student. At different points in the investigation, the police may invite other individuals or authorities into the student search process (i.e. canine-aided search teams, air patrols, etc.)


If the student is not located within 24 hours, the AVP will be notified, and in collaboration with the police, will contact the person(s) listed on the student’s Emergency Contact record or the student’s parent or guardian to inquire about his/her whereabouts and/or alert that person that their student may be missing. Once this occurs, a University official, family member, or other appropriate person will make an official missing person report to the law enforcement agency within jurisdiction.

The campus police or a security department will keep the AVP apprised of the investigation as it continues. As the investigation progresses, the AVP will ensure that pertinent details are appropriately relayed to staff and will make notifications to supervisors and the University administration in accordance with established policies and procedures.

In accordance with Policy SY03, the AVP will also act as a liaison to the family. Through this role, the AVP will coordinate on-going communication with the family and friends of the missing student and help to provide additional support services that may be needed.



In accordance with general institutional emergency notification procedures, Penn State has provided a list of titles of persons and offices to which students, employees, or others, can contact if they have reason to believe a student who lives in on-campus student housing has been missing for 24 hours. It is the intent of this policy to direct individuals who believe a Penn State student is missing to immediately notify specific staff in the University administration, University Police, and local law enforcement. Likewise, the AVP will notify other areas, as appropriate, in accordance with policy SY03.

Specifically, staff in the Office of Residence Life, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Student and Family Services, University Police Services and Public Safety, and the senior Student Affairs professional at a campus, should be contacted so that they can coordinate efforts to locate the student. The list of positions, offices, and contact information to be utilized if a student goes missing from the campus is included in the University Contacts for Missing Students section at the end of this policy.

In addition to contacting these specific offices, anyone who has a concern that a student may have gone missing should alert any Penn State employee who they think will aid in the investigation of a student disappearance. Beyond notifications made by campus employees to University staff or campus police or campus security, in the absence of a campus police or campus security department, any missing student report must be referred immediately to the local law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction in the geographical areas around the specific campus location.

Registering and Notifying Student Missing Contact

In accordance with this policy, students will be notified annually that each residential student of the University has the option to identify an individual to be contacted by the Penn State administration no later than 24 hours after the time that it is determined the student is missing.

Penn State provides each student with the means and opportunity to register their confidential missing student contact information by logging into the University’s Elion system and filling out the Address and Contact Information form. This missing student contact person can be anyone. This option is provided to students even if a student has already registered an individual as a general emergency contact. The student also has the option to identify the same individual for both their general emergency contact and missing student contact.

Missing student contact information is registered confidentially. This information is private and only accessible to Penn State employees who are authorized campus officials. This information will not be disclosed to others with the exception to law enforcement personnel in the furtherance of a missing student investigation.

In accordance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 and this policy, Penn State will notify the missing the student’s parents or guardian in addition to the person identified as the missing student contact person of any student who is under 18 years of age and not an emancipated individual. This contact will be made no later than 24 hours after the time that the student is determined to be missing.

Notifying Law Enforcement

Penn State will also notify the appropriate local law enforcement agency of the missing student unless the local law enforcement agency was the entity that made the determination that the student was missing. This notification will include any missing student who lives in on-campus housing regardless of age or status, and regardless of whether he or she registered a confidential missing student or general emergency contact person. This notification will be made no later than 24 hours after the time that the student is determined missing.

If the campus law enforcement personnel or campus security department has been notified that a student has gone missing, and makes a determination that a student who is the subject of a missing person report has been missing for more than 24 hours, Penn State staff will initiate emergency contact procedures as outlined in Penn State’s policy and protocol.

University Contacts for Missing Students

University Park Campus

Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs
Penn State University
129 Boucke Building
University Park, PA 16802

Senior Director of Residence Life
Penn State University
University Park, PA 16802
201 Johnston Commons

Director, University Police
Penn State University
25 Eisenhower Parking Deck
University Park, PA 16802

Dean of Student Services
Dickinson Law School
Lewis Katz Building
University Park, PA 16802

Commonwealth Campuses

Penn State Abington
Director of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management
106 Sutherland Building
Abington, PA 19001

Penn State Altoona
Director of Student Affairs
103 Slep Student Center
Altoona, PA 16601

Penn State Beaver
Director of Student Affairs
101 Administration Building
Monaca, PA 15061

Penn State Berks
Director of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management
14B Perkins Student Center
Reading, PA 19610

Penn State Behrend
Director of Student Affairs & Institutional Research and Planning
115 Reed Building
Erie, PA 16563

Penn State Brandywine
Director of Student Affairs
25 Yearsley Mill Road, Commons 209
Media, PA 19063

Penn State Dickinson School of Law
Director of Student Services
333 W. South Street
Carlisle, PA 17013

Penn State DuBois
Director of Student Affairs
106 Hiller Building, College Place
DuBois, PA 15801

Penn State Fayette
Director of Student Affairs
2201 University Drive
Lemont Furnace, PA 15456

Penn State Great Valley
Director Enrollment Management and Student Services
30 East Swedesford Road
Malvern, PA 19355

Penn State Greater Allegheny
Director of Student Affairs
112 Student Community Center
McKeesport, PA 15131

Penn State Harrisburg
Director of Student Affairs
C120 Olmstead Building
Middletown, PA 17057

Penn State Hazelton
Director of Student Affairs and Student Enrollment
76 University Drive
Hazelton, PA 18202

Penn State Hershey College of Medicine
Director of Student Affairs
500 University Drive
Hershey, PA 17033

Penn State Lehigh Valley
Director of Student Affairs
2809 East Saucon Valley Road
Center Valley, PA 18034

Penn State Mont Alto
Director of Student Affairs
211 Conklin Hall
Mont Alto, PA 17237

Penn State New Kensington
Director of Student Affairs
112B Faculty and Admin. Bldg
New Kensington, PA 15068

Penn State Schuylkill
Director of Student Affairs
209-C Health & Wellness Building
Schuylkill Haven, PA 17972

Penn State Shenango
Director of Student Affairs
103 Sharon Hall
Sharon, PA 16146

Penn State Wilkes-Barre
Director of Student Affairs
Hayfield Building
Leman, PA 18627

Penn State Worthington Scranton
Director of Student Affairs
Study Learning Center
Dunmore, PA 18512

Penn State York
Director of Student and Enrollment Services
19 Ruhl Student Center
York, PA 17403


For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact University Police & Public Safety.


AD74 - Compliance With the Clery Act

SY03 - Emergencies Involving Students

Effective Date: October 10, 2012
Date Approved: October 10, 2012
Date Published: October 10, 2012 (Editorial changes- May 11, 2016)

Most Recent Changes:

  • May 11, 2016 - Editorial changes. Corrections to address information in the "University Contacts for Missing Students" section, as provided by University Police & Public Safety.

Revision History (and effective dates):

  • June 19, 2014 - Editorial changes. Addition of policy steward information, in the event that there are questions or requests for changes to the policy.
  • October 10, 2012 - New policy.