Missing Student

Effective: September 7, 2010
Updated/Revised: March 25, 2015
Contact: ISU Department of Public Safety


The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) requires institutions to adopt a policy regarding notification of law enforcement when a student is missing.

Policy Statement

Reporting a Student as Missing

When a student is missing, as defined in this policy, ISU Police shall be notified as soon as possible, but no later than twenty-four hours after the student’s absence is noticed. Any person may report any Iowa State University student as missing by making a report to the ISU Police by calling 515-294-4428.

For purposes of this policy, a student is missing when the student's whereabouts are unknown and unexplained for a period of time that would be regarded as highly unusual or suspicious by persons familiar with the student's plans, habits or routines.

Initial Institutional Response

Upon receipt of a missing student report, the ISU Police Department will promptly begin efforts to locate the student on campus, at other sites controlled by the university and at other locations in which the student resides, working closely with the

  • Dean of Students Office,
  • Department of Residence,
  • Academic college and department in which the missing student is enrolled,
  • Department in which the missing student is employed (in the event the student is employed by ISU), and
  • local law enforcement agencies in the locations where the student resides.

Initial efforts to contact the student may involve telephone, e-mail, text message or other electronic communications such as use of a meal plan card or building access card.

University personnel authorized by ISU Police or the Dean of Students Office may attempt to contact the student at his or her housing unit on the campus or at his or her local residence.

If a student who resides in university controlled housing units does not respond to initial efforts to make contact, Student Affairs or other authorized Department of Residence personnel may enter the student's room in order to assess the condition of the room and look for clues to explain the student's absence. ISU Police will request that Student Affairs personnel enter student rooms.

University personnel authorized by ISU Police or Dean of Students Office may pursue such additional or other investigative activities as are reasonable under the circumstances.

Institutional Response After Determining Student is Missing

No later than twenty-four hours after the time a student is determined to be missing, as defined under this policy, Iowa State University shall initiate the following emergency contact procedures:

  • The ISU Police shall notify local law enforcement agencies such as the Ames Police Department, the Story County Sheriff's Office, and other law enforcement agencies in locations where the student resides in an attempt to locate the missing student.
  • The ISU Police must notify the persons designated by the student in the Emergency Contact Database that the student is missing.
  • The Dean of Students Office must notify the student's custodial parents or legal guardians in the case of unemancipated students under the age of eighteen.

Policy Awareness

The University will link to this policy electronically through websites designed to convey emergency or law enforcement information such as the ISU Annual Security Report; will incorporate its provisions into the Residence Life website and Department of Residence newsletters (see Resources below); and will otherwise assure that students know, or should know, of its provisions.

Student's Option to Identify Persons to Be Informed

Students in university controlled housing: At the time that a student initially registers for classes or is accepted as a resident in university controlled housing, the student will be given an opportunity to designate an emergency contact, which would be used in the event the student is missing. This information can be updated at any time by the student.

Emergency contact information on AccessPlus: All students, whether living in university controlled housing or not, will be provided confidential means to designate and update emergency contacts using the Emergency Contact Information page on the ISU AccessPlus website (see Resources below). This website contains a special section for students to provide Missing Person contact information.

Confidentiality: Missing Person contact information will be maintained by the University as a confidential student record and will be accessible only to specifically designated authorized university officials. This confidential information may not be disclosed except to law enforcement personnel in furtherance of a missing student investigation.

Students Under 18: The University will inform students under the age of eighteen that, in the event they are unemancipated and determined to be missing, their custodial parent or legal guardian must be notified.