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Office of School Safety April 2023 Newsletter
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Michigan Schools Subjected to “Swatting”
In February, several school districts in Michigan were subjected to “swatting” calls, falsely warning of the presence of an active shooter. The practice of swatting is a form of harassment to deceive an emergency service provider into sending a police and emergency service response team to a specific location. The practice is disruptive and wastes valuable law enforcement and school resources. In light of recent events, the Michigan State Police Office of School Safety encourages all school districts to engage with local, county, and/or state law enforcement to assist with the following:
- Review Emergency Operations Plans (EOPs) with staff, including the specific roles and responsibilities of members of the crisis response team. As a reminder, Public Act 436 of 2018 requires schools to review and update EOPs minimally every two years (the Revised School Code, MCL 380.1308b).
- Make sure appropriate personnel are identified and trained to work with and be a member of Unified Incident Command.
- Identify predetermined locations with local emergency responders to serve as Incident Command posts.
- Conduct exercises using the EOP in either drills or tabletop formats to practice, prepare, and allow for an opportunity to identify potential gaps in policies and procedures.
- Conduct emergency drills with students and staff as required by Public Act 12 of 2014.
- Discuss plans with district transportation officials if bussing is necessary to help evacuate students and staff.
- Review the reunification process, including outreach to reunification sites. Be sure reunification sites are of a sufficient size to handle the number of students and parent/guardian vehicles necessary to pick up students.
- Engage in after-action discussions with staff, students, parents/guardians, and emergency responders to identify the effectiveness of the EOP and everyone’s understanding of its implementation.
- Identify school and/or community resources to ensure after-incident mental health services for staff, students, and families are available.
Chief Ken Plaga of the Meridian Township Police Department contributed to this report. Chief Plaga also serves on the School Safety Commission representing law enforcement.
OK2SAY Needs Your Help
Many schools are now using security network systems to guard their networks from the effects of malicious software and the intrusion of unauthorized users. Regrettably, it has also impacted OK2SAY’s ability to communicate with tipsters. When a student uses their school email to submit a tip, some school firewalls block the OK2SAY response from reaching the student tipster. OK2SAY technicians work hard to gather pertinent tip information so actionable and accurate information can be forwarded in a timely matter.
If your school utilizes a firewall system that blocks outside communication, please consider allowing students to communicate with OK2SAY technicians by whitelisting the following email addresses or domain names: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. This will allow two-way communication if a student submits a tip via the OK2SAY App or the website. This will also help provide school administrators with more tip details to better address any referred incidents. The goal is to knock down barriers so a student who is struggling can get the needed help before a situation turns into a tragedy.
We are counting on you to help investigate and respond to an OK2SAY tip. By working together, we can keep our students safe.
Human trafficking affects individuals across the world and right here in Michigan. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, human trafficking is a danger regardless of the age, gender, ethnicity, and/or socio-economic backgrounds of its victims.
- Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which people profit from the control and exploitation of others. This crime occurs when a trafficker uses force, fraud, or coercion to control another person for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or soliciting labor or services against his/her will while receiving little or no compensation. Victims include both children and adults.
- Sex trafficking is found in a wide variety of venues within the commercial sex industry, including residential brothels, escort services, fake massage businesses, strip clubs, and street prostitution. Minors under the age of 18 engaging in commercial sex are considered victims of human trafficking, regardless of whether or not there was use of force, fraud, or coercion. Minors engaging in “survival sex” to obtain basic necessities such as food, shelter, or transportation are also considered victims.
- Labor trafficking is found in diverse labor settings, including domestic work in hotels, massage parlors, nail salons, small businesses, large farms, and factories. Under Michigan law, minors under the age of 18 engaging in forced labor are considered victims of human trafficking, regardless of whether or not there was use of force, fraud, or coercion.
How do traffickers acquire their victims? Most often through manipulation, control, and targeting the vulnerable. Ways to protect young people online include:
- Setting strict privacy settings – Consider setting accounts to private and turning off location sharing on posts.
- Beware of strange friend requests – Teach them to only accept friend requests from people they know, even if they have friends in common. Traffickers have reached out to strangers to ‘chat’ via social media and then slowly work to build trust with potential victims.
- Don’t overshare – Everything put online is in the public domain, including personal information such as phone numbers, addresses, and live locations.
- Flag it, don’t share it – Teach them to not hesitate to unfriend, block or report someone who is harassing them or talking to them in a way they don’t like. They should take screenshots of the messages or posts. They might be useful later in an investigation.
- Get help or raise the alarm – Suspected human trafficking can be reported to federal law enforcement by calling 1-866-347-2423. Help is available from the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. The Michigan Department of Attorney General also has information on their website.
‘Take it Down’ Helps Young People Remove Explicit Online Images
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is helping launch a free service called Take it Down. This service helps children and teens remove online nude, partially nude, or sexually explicit photos and videos without sharing any of their personal information with the service.
The program works by assigning a unique digital code, called a hash value, to the specific image or video. Tech companies use the hash value to scan their public or unencrypted services to detect and remove the image or video. No individual will look at the image or video. To learn more, visit https://takeitdown.ncmec.org/
OK2SAY, Michigan’s Student Safety Program, is seeing an increase in tips that involve adults coercing students into producing sexual images and videos online, a crime called sextortion. It is a form of blackmail in which sexual information or images are used to extort sexual favors or money from the victim. They may even threaten to harm the victim’s friends or relatives unless the victim complies with their demands.
Students need to know that while they cannot go back and change what happened, they can get help and move forward. Please consider talking to students about this service.
School Safety Resource Round-up
Strategies and Resources
for K-12 Schools
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Department of Homeland Security
Strategic Intelligence Assessment and Data on Domestic Terrorism
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
United States Secret Service
National Threat Assessment Center
Mass Attacks in Public Spaces 2016-2020