Policy Number: 207
Missing Student Notification
I. POLICY AND GENERAL STATEMENT
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (“university”) complies with the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, which requires that any institution of higher education that participates in any Title IV program and that maintains an on-campus housing facility must establish, for students of the institution who reside in such housing facility, policy and procedures for notification regarding missing students.
Students have the option to identify a confidential contact person to be registered with the university. The confidential contact person will be contacted within 24 hours of a determination that the student is missing, in accordance with the procedures set forth in Section III below. For purposes of this policy, the confidential contact person information must be provided to the office of the Director, University Housing. Students may register such information in person with the office of the Director, University Housing during normal business hours. Such designations will remain in effect until such time as the student changes or revokes the designation, is no longer enrolled as a student at the university, ceases to reside in the residential facilities, or otherwise no longer qualifies as a “student. Only authorized campus officials and law enforcement agencies, as listed in the procedures below, shall have access to such contact information in the furtherance of the missing student investigation.
For purposes of this policy, a student shall be determined to be missing upon the receipt of a credible missing person report by one of the persons or organizations listed in the procedures set forth in III.A.
Notification to a confidential contact person designated by a student who has been determined to be missing shall be in accordance with the procedures set forth in Section III.B.
Residential facilities: university-owned on-campus residential facilities located on the university’s campus.
Student: any student of the university who is lawfully residing in the residential facilities and has been previously identified in writing to the Office of University Housing as a university student, with proof thereof.
A. Reporting Missing Students
Any individual who has information that a student may be missing should immediately report that information to one of the authorized persons or organizations listed below. Such reports should include whether the student has been missing for more than 24 hours:
- The University of Texas at Houston Police Department (“UTPD”);
- The Dean of the student’s respective school;
- The Office of Student Affairs (or comparable department) of the student’s respective school; and
- Director, University Housing.
B. Investigating a Missing Student Report
The missing person report will be immediately referred to UTPD if they have not already been notified. UTPD will investigate the missing person report and will consider such factors as whether the student has been absent for a prolonged period of time from the university campus and facilities, whether such absence is contrary to the student’s known usual pattern of behavior, and whether there is any known explanation for such absence. Due to the unique nature and dynamics of the university, its respective schools and programs, and the various academic, clinical or research activities that may be undertaken by a student, the university recognizes that it may be challenging to ascertain accurately whether a student is actually missing. All relevant circumstances will be considered in the investigation, including any known medical conditions, any evidence of foul play and other factors that could bring into question the student’s safety or welfare. UTPD will alert other local law enforcement agencies as it deems appropriate or necessary during the course of its investigation.
UTPD will undertake to gather all essential information about the student from the reporting person, the student's known acquaintances, university personnel, fellow students, and official university information sources. To the extent available, such information may include a physical description of the student, cellular phone number, potential location(s) of the student, persons who may be accompanying the student, vehicle description, a current photograph, a class schedule, when the student was last known to have attended class or work, last use of any university access card, and whether any contact with the student has been attempted or made using text messaging, phone, e-mail, or any other traceable communication methods.
If the student cannot be located within 24 hours of being reported as missing, UTPD will notify: (1) the designated confidential contact person, if any; (2) the student’s parents or guardian, if the student is under 18 years of age and is not emancipated, and (3) the local law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction in the area.
If the missing student is under the age of 18, UTPD must also report the student as endangered to the Texas Department of Public Safety if:
(a) he or she has been reported missing on four or more occasions in the 24-month period preceding the date of the current report; or
(b) he or she is in foster care or in the conservatorship of the Department of Family and Protective Services and has been reported missing on two or more occasions in the 24-month period preceding the date of the current report.
C. Outside Communications about Missing Student
Prior to the release of any information by the university to the public regarding a student who is determined to be missing, UTPD and, as appropriate, other local law enforcement agencies involved in locating the student, will be consulted so as not to jeopardize any investigation.
Information provided to the media to elicit public assistance in the search for a missing student will be handled by UTPD or other designated local law enforcement agency.
D. Reporting Located Students
If a student who is reported missing is located, UTPD will provide an update to the Director, University Housing. UTPD will also notify all parties previously contacted by UTPD and will advise them of the status in a timely manner.
E. Use of Procedures Prior to 24 Hour Time Period
The university may, at its discretion, initiate any of the foregoing procedures prior to any statutorily designated time period if it is believed to be merited. This includes contacting a designated confidential contact person and/or custodial parent/guardian to help ascertain if a student is missing or to collect information helpful to a search for a student who has been determined to be missing.
Director, University Housing