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Schuette, Calley, Etue and Flanagan Announce Proposed OK-2-SAY Student Safety Hotline

Contact: Joy Yearout 517-373-8060

May 21, 2013 

 

LANSING - Attorney General Bill Schuette, Lt. Governor Brian Calley, Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, Director of the Michigan State Police, and Mike Flanagan, State Superintendent, today announced the proposed creation of OK-2-SAY, a hotline and educational student safety initiative scheduled to be rolled out in Michigan schools for the upcoming 2013-2014 academic year.  OK-2-SAY is a student safety program that will stop violence and tragedy before it happens by facilitating and encouraging confidential tip-sharing among students, parents, school personnel and law enforcement officials, uncovering harmful behaviors that threaten to disrupt our schools. 

According to the U.S. Secret Service, for 81% of violent incidents in U.S. schools, someone other than the attacker had knowledge of the attacker's plan but failed to report it.  OK-2-SAY will discourage the persistent culture of silence among students who fear reporting threatening behavior is intrusive, will lead to retaliation or result in stigmatization for the tipster.  Key features of OK-2-SAY include:

  • Confidential Reporting:  State law will guarantee and protect the confidentiality of the reporter's identity.  The identity of the reporting party 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.  Provisions will be available for prosecutors to seek a court order to review records in cases of false reports to the program.

  • Comprehensive Technology:  OK-2-SAY will be operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year.  The program will accept tips by phone, text message, email, website and multimedia device (via mobile application) photos and videos will be accepted, in addition to text.

  • Coordinated Intervention:  The Michigan State Police will field tips and promptly provide the information to appropriate school districts and local law enforcement agencies.  The goal of the program is not to increase arrests, but rather, to prevent tragedies through communication and collaboration.  Depending upon the report, follow-up action will vary, and may not require intervention by law enforcement.

  • Accountability:  To ensure tips are acted upon, agencies receiving tips will be asked to report back what action was taken in response to the tip received and the subsequent outcome.  An annual report on the program's impact will detail the types and numbers of tips handled throughout the year.

State officials anticipate OK-2-SAY will log tips on a variety of issues involving student safety, including: weapons possession, bullying, substance abuse, and suicide threats.  Schuette noted that other states have had successes with similar programs.  Following the attack on Columbine High School, the state of Colorado launched a student safety program that has fielded 7,000 tips since 2004. That program has documented and resolved 28 planned school attacks, 890 planned suicides, 1,636 bullying instances, 442 sexual offenses, and 275 gun/weapon reports. 

Legislation to create OK-2-SAY is supported by Representative Rick Outman (R-Six Lakes), Representative Phil Potvin (R-Cadillac) and Senator Judy Emmons (R-Sheridan).  OK-2-SAY will be operated through a partnership between the Department of Attorney General, Michigan State Police, Michigan Department of Education, schools, parents, law enforcement, and community leaders.  Also present for the announcement were: Paul Liabenow, Executive Director of the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association, Sandra York, Executive Director of the Michigan PTA, and representatives from the education and law enforcement communities.

 "Our students learn best in a safe environment, but dangerous behaviors threaten to disrupt our schools, and in the worst cases, take the lives of our students," said Attorney General Bill Schuette. "OK-2-SAY will create an early warning system in our schools and communities to stop tragedies before they start.  We cannot sit and wait for the next Columbine or Sandy Hook. We must be proactive to ensure our kids are safe, both inside and outside the classroom."

"Safety has to be a first priority for our schools, or other priorities just won't matter," said Lt. Gov. Brian Calley. "Families must be assured that every reasonable precaution is taken to give children a safe environment. OK-2-SAY is another important step in providing the secure classrooms every child deserves and every parent demands."

"The OK-2-Say student safety initiative is one more way we can all work together to help prevent school violence and keep our students safe," said Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue. "Within the Michigan State Police, we are firm believers in the value of prevention services. It is imperative that we begin teaching crime prevention and safety-related behaviors to our children when they are young."  

"Students can't learn if they don't feel safe. The OK-2-SAY student safety initiative allows students to engage in helping to keep their friends and school safe," said Superintendent Mike Flanagan. "OK-2-SAY meets students where they are at - in a digital world - which greatly enhances the likelihood that students will use the service."

"As a mother and a grandmother, the safety of all our children is top priority," said Senator Judy Emmons. "The OK-2-SAY program will enhance our ability as a state to take in information and most importantly, respond quickly."

"OK-2-SAY will be another option for students where they can either reach out for help or anonymously alert authorities about possible violence, threats, or harmful activities in our schools," said Representative Phil Potvin.  "By incorporating the use of texts, emails, and other multimedia messaging with the hotline, it will be easier for students to take that step and help keep our schools safe.  I look forward to working with Attorney General Schuette and the legislature to see this new safety resource implemented."

"During my time as superintendent of a local school district, we lost five students in a five-year period," said Paul Liabenow, Executive Director of the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association.  "The trauma that comes to a community with the loss of so many young lives is devastating.  Violence, self-inflicted or otherwise, can be reduced by providing a safe means for students to report incidents to caring adults, thus breaking the code of silence. OK-2-SAY will stop violence - and the trauma that follows - before it happens."

"I first became involved in the development of OK-2-SAY when the Superintendent of Cadillac Schools, who is from Colorado, shared that state's successes with my brother, a principal at Cadillac Schools," said Representative Rick Outman.  "I have met with Colorado officials, and I am impressed with the great successes they have achieved. Many tragedies have been prevented because the tipline is confidential - that gives children the security they need to use the program. With all the heartbreaking violence happening in our schools, this effort matters."

 "The amount of violence we hear about in schools today is staggering.  OK-2-SAY will empower children with a safe avenue to share information that has the potential to save lives," said Sandra York, Executive Director of the Michigan PTA.  "Michigan PTA supports and applauds the State Attorney General for his willingness to facilitate implementation of OK-2-SAY in Michigan, and we urge the legislature to take the necessary steps to ensure the program will be able to move forward.  If just one child's life is saved - and we believe it will be many more - the program will be a success.  No parent should be on the receiving end of that one phone call that will change their family's life forever."

 

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