November 4, 2016

Safety on College Campus: What Parents Should Know

As a parent, having your child leave the nest is a scary experience. Usually, this is the first time that your child must stand on their own. This is the first time that you won’t be there to help them if they need it.

This can be a terrifying thought. But there is much you can do to prepare your child and yourself for the possible dangers of college campuses.

Follow these tips to keep your student safe on campus.

No Need to Be Consumed With Worry

First and foremost, college campuses are generally safe places with less crime per capita.

According to Enlighten Me in 2008, the following statistics were recorded for burglary and theft:

…the DOE recorded (from colleges) 243 cases of burglary per 100,000 students while the FBI recorded 730 cases nationwide per 100,000 Americans. On campuses and at residence halls, 24 motor vehicle thefts were reported per 100,000 students compared to 315 per 100,000 Americans.

Taken together, the numbers indicate that a person in the general American population is ten times more likely to become the victim of a violent crime than a college student on campus or in the residence hall.

From the same source, the following statistics were recorded for more violent crimes including murder and sexual assault:

On college campuses and in dormitories, 20 aggravated assaults and 25 forcible sex offenses were recorded per 100,000 students. In that same year, the FBI’s statistics show that 275 aggravated assaults and 29 forcible sex offenses occurred per 100,000 Americans. Murder and non-negligent manslaughter are grouped together in the records, and just .1 of these tragedies was reported per 100,000 college and university students while 5.4 were reported for every 100,000 Americans.

Though the numbers are few, it is still important that you and your child are not only aware of the possible dangers, but also what actions to take if something occurs.

To get a quick idea of reported incidents of crime on campus, look at the Crime page on the university’s profile at College Factual.

Be aware that some schools may appear to have high incidents of crime, but the fact may be that the school is just more effective at cracking down and reporting crime. The number itself can’t give you the whole picture without also knowing the school’s policies.

Legal Responsibilities of the School

The Jeanne Clery Act was signed into law in 1990 and requires any educational institution that receives federal funding to report incidents of crime on campus as well as in the surrounding area. This also means that every school must publish annual security reports as well as their policies surrounding such issues. This should be available for any parent or student who is curious about how the school provides security, reports incidents, and follows up on them.

Under Title IX is a federal law that prohibits gender discrimination in education. It requires that schools are proactive in handling incidents involving gender discrimination, harassment or sexual assault. Because of this most schools handle these affairs internally rather than involving the criminal justice system.

In theory this should mean students receive timely and fair judgments about sexual assault cases. However, in practice both those accused and accusers have found the system lacking.

As reported by CNN:

Colleges and universities across the country are required by federal law to investigate and adjudicate whenever a student makes allegations of sexual misconduct.

The procedures vary widely. Most schools hold disciplinary hearings, often made up of teachers and students, some with little training, acting as prosecutor, judge and jury. And though the punishment isn’t as severe as in criminal cases, it’s significant for both the accuser and the accused. It can end a college education, and critics of the process say it can unfairly damage lives.

Whether or not you find this practice to be fair and result in desirable outcomes, it’s important to be aware of how these issues are handled by the university.

Practical Tips

Legalese aside, as your student will be by themselves in new and potentially risky situations, it is important to teach them some common-sense tips about what they will face. Your child will be exposed to alcohol, parties, and will have to know how to handle themselves responsibly in these situations.

As a current college student, I advise any new student to be aware of their surroundings, to always travel with friends, and to always have a plan. If they are forward thinking about their actions and have people with them, they will have nothing to worry about.

It is scary to think about the possibility that your child may be at risk of sexual assault, and I’m sure it’s something many parents worry about. On my campus alone last fall, there were seven reported assaults.

It’s important that both men and women are aware of these dangers because both men and women are affected. One out of every six women is assaulted, and one out of every ten victims of sexual assault are male. This is according to a survey done in 1998 by the National Institute of Justice Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s crucial that your son or daughter is aware of what it means to consent. Consent cannot be legally given if someone is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This is an area in which many college students get into trouble.

Begin the conversation with your child. Speak to them openly about sex. Yes, these conversations may be uncomfortable, but if you aren’t speaking to your child about it they will get their information somewhere else and it may not be accurate. Be open with your child about what is ok and what is not. Let them know that they can talk to you and come to you for help with any issue.

Be Positive

There is nothing to fear when sending your child to college. They are going there to become educated and more well-rounded citizens of society, and they will learn so much more than just what they learn in the classroom. What is the most important is your support throughout this journey.

And don’t worry, we don’t mind when you call us every once in a while to make sure we’re okay!

Resources Referenced:

  • Enlighten Me:
  • Clery Center:
  • CNN:
  • Department of Justice:

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