Michigan youth embracing OK2SAY student safety initiative

Look for this colorful logo on the C-A Schools or Flint Township Fire Department web sites to link to the OK2SAY student safety program.

Look for this colorful logo on the C-A Schools or Flint Township Fire Department web sites to link to the OK2SAY student safety program.

FLINT TWP. — Any Carman- Ainsworth student who is aware of a threatening or unsafe situation can find help close at hand. Links directing students and others to the new statewide OK2SAY trouble-reporting program are prominently posted on both the C-A district and the Flint Township Fire Department web sites.

OK2SAY began operating in Michigan schools on September 2, 2014. Complying with the 2013 Student Safety Act, Ok2SAY is intended to operate as an early warming system in schools to prevent tragedies before they happen. Overseen by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette working with the Michigan State Police (MSP), parents, school officials and mental health providers, the program provides a confidential outlet for information sharing.

Last month, Schuette and MSP Director Colonel Kriste Kibbey Etue announced a significant success rate for the first semester of the program. The school safety initiative generated 410 tips including 163 tips on bullying and cyberbullying, 54 threats of suicide, 13 tips on child abuse, 34 drug-related incidents, two reports of dating violence, 21 instances of sexual misconduct and five planned school attacks, according to a press release.

“OK2SAY is working to keep our kids safer in Michigan communities and schools,” said Schuette. “If even one child’s life is saved by OK2SAY, this program will have been a success. OK2SAY has passed its first semester with flying colors.”

“OK2SAY has been successful in giving students the opportunity to break the code of silence by submitting tips by telephone, text, web, email and multimedia technologies,” said Col. Etue. “We’re pleased to be part of a program in which more than 400 tips have helped to respond to threats and prevent tragedies in our schools.”

OK2SAY was modeled after Safe2Tell, a Colorado program started after the 1999 Columbine tragedy, and enables students to confidentially report potential harm or criminal activities aimed at students, teachers, staff or other school employees. By comparison, in Safe2Tell’s first year of operation only 100 tips were reported – Michigan has received quadruple that number in half the time.

Among OK2SAY success stories is a tip received from a student who had struggled with depression, self-harm and recent loss and was contemplating suicide. According to a 2012 report by the Michigan Department of Community Health, one in 11 Michigan adolescents attempt suicide one or more times.

While staying in contact with the suicidal student, OK2SAY made an urgent call to the School Resource Officer (SRO) without disclosing the origin of the tip. The student was located safely at the school and arrangements were made with the student’s parents for the child to receive help and support.

Other OK2SAY success stories include:

A student arrested and gun confiscated after an OK2SAY tip alerted law enforcement;

A fight averted after an OK2SAY tip alerted school personnel;

A family and child received help from law enforcement after a sibling planned an attack on the child with a knife;

State law protects the confidentiality of the reporter’s identity. Their identity will not be disclosed to local law enforcement, school officials, or the person against whom a tip is offered, unless the reporter voluntarily chooses to disclose his or her identity.

OK2SAY is operational 24 hours a day year-round. The program accepts tips by phone, text message, email, mobile application, and website form, accessible at www.mi.gov/ok2say.

Students, teachers, parents, school workers, friends and neighbors can all submit tips, if they are aware of a threat in school. Tips can be submitted through the following ways:

Call: 1-8-555-OK2SAY, 1-855-565- 2729

Text: 652729 (OK2SAY)

Email: ok2say@mi.gov

Web: www.mi.gov/ok2say

OK2SAY Mobile App: Available for download in app stores for iPhone and Android. — Rhonda Sanders

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *