9 Factors to Choosing a Safe College
A Guide for Concerned Parents, Future Students and Alert Security Leaders
Sending your child to college is both an exciting and emotional time. As with any rite of passage, the separation and the transition to a new environment has the potential to propagate safety and security concerns for both parents and future students. Some of these concerns can be alleviated by an on-campus visit and a first-hand experience of the safety and security measures utilized on campus. Nevertheless, there is more that can be done in order to increase the safety, security and well-being of future students.
Below is a list of resources that can assist parents and prospective student to assess and compare the safety and security of different educational institutions. It is important to note that relating these resources provides a far better understanding of the potential risks than any of these standalone factors.
As a university security leader, be prepared to answer students’ and parents’ questions about the following:
1. Annual Security Report (ASR)– In compliance with the Jeanne Clery Act, most educational institutions are required to disclose in their ASR the campus security policies and crime statistics to the university community. You can visit this website to learn more about this topic: http://ope.ed.gov/security/.The ASR can be used to compare between institutions and to review any trends at specific locations year over year.
2. Local and National Sex Offender Registries– Sex offender searches can be reviewed at the following site: http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/registry)This site canprovide valuable information about areas around the school where sex offenders live.
3. FBI Uniform Crime Report (UCR)– This report can be viewed here: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/ucr). This report details crime reported to law enforcement which can be used for both trend comparison and geographic comparison. Parents and prospective students can evaluate the change in crime rates in a specific city where the campus is located or compare crime rates in several different cities for the most recent year.
4. Educational Institution’s Website– Parents and prospective students should visit the school’s website and review the available student resources which should include counseling services, housing safety, Title IX information, emergency procedures and more. The Safety and Security website can also serve as an indicator of the institutions commitment to safety and security.
5. Mass Notification– Parents should urge students to opt in to the institutions mass notification system and to routinely provide current contact information. Parents should also register themselves if the institution allows parents to be a part of the mass notification recipients.
6. Title IX Information – Each institution has a Title IX officer who is charged with overseeing the institution’s responses to Title IX reports and complaints, as well as addressing any patterns or systematic issues from these reports and complaints. This individual can assist students if an issue of sexual violence ever arises.
7. Institution’s Crime Log– Reviewing the crime log while on campus, or on the institution’s website is also a good tool.
8. Google Maps– These maps will give you a view of the nearby entities to identify potential threats. For example, student housing in close proximity to major streets might be less desirable.
9. Police, Fire Stations and Hospitals– Students should know where the nearest police, fire station, and hospitals are located. When applicable, these locations can also be the agreed upon evacuation location the student will reside in the event of an on campus emergency. Several websites provide this information by ZIP code, city and more.
In addition to the information listed above, leaving home to a new environment can be an opportunity to have a candid conversation about life experiences and the challenges ahead. Parents should consider discussing counseling services on campus, security escorts offered by campuses, drinking and driving, and more. In addition, parents and students can make use of available safety training relevant to the selected major of study – for example PR\AED, heat exhaustion, etc. Parents should also discuss an emergency plan that takes into consideration the factors listed above and decide on a pre-defined primary and secondary evacuation location and an emergency communication plan. Furthermore, based on geography and risk factors, future students can also add to their smartphones a number of safety-related applications such as weather warnings, Red Cross First Aid, hurricane preparation, police and emergency responder scanners and more.
Parents can and should be a positive influence and a part of their child’s transition into adulthood. Jointly acquiring knowledge on safety and security can provide a sense of control to help reduce the fear of the unknown for both potential students and parents.