Two high profile incidents this week revealed that despite updates to the Clery Act and Title IX requirements, campuses continue to struggle to proactively identify warning signs and red flags and gather information and reports from their people (students, staff, faculty, law enforcement, counselors, etc.).
Penn State – Lawmakers are investigating whether Penn State violated the Clery Act when it did not report child sexual abuse allegations regarding a former football coach to the proper authorities. Several coaches were aware of the allegations, but did not report to the police.
University of Idaho – University of Idaho officials say at least one police officer knew of alleged gun threats against a graduate student before she was shot and killed by a professor she had been dating. The student had complained to the university in June that professor Ernesto Bustamante had threatened her with a firearm three separate times during the relationship.
It is critical for institutions to connect the dots across all individuals and threat team members (students, staff, faculty, counselors, law enforcement, parents, etc.) ongoing and ensure that all threats, risks, warning signs, etc. are reported to the appropriate personnel and investigated thoroughly to determine the appropriate level of response. Too many times, we see after the fact the warning flags and reports that existed, but that were not connected.
Comprehensive threat assessment and behavioral intervention programs need to extend across the entire campus community (faculty and staff, as well as students). If TAT/BIT teams can be notified immediately at the first sign of violence, aggression, threat, etc., and have the tools necessary to connect the dots across campuses, locations, departments, etc., many of these tragedies may be able to be prevented.
I think one of the biggest challenges that may have been a factor in each of these incidents is a lack of clear procedure and policy on reporting incidents. Higher education institutions must clearly define individual responsibilities for reporting illegal activities, suspicious behaviors, red flags, threats, etc. and ensure that all individuals involved understand their roles and requirements (and the consequences for a failure to report).
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