Schuette rolls out student safety tip line
Attorney General Bill Schuette was in Detroit this morning to talk about a new school safety initiative called OK2Say.

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State officials are banking on a new student safety reporting system — called OK2Say — to help reduce school violence in Michigan schools.

“We want schools to be places of learning, not violence,” Attorney General Bill Schuette said during a news conference this morning.

Schuette and a host of other officials have been rolling out the new system, which began this month, across the state. Today, they brought the message to University Preparatory Science and Math Academy in Detroit.

“It’s important for all of us to make sure we take responsibility,” Schuette said.

He cited statistics from the U.S. Secret Service that show that in 81% of the violent incidents that happen in schools nationwide, someone else other than the attacker knew about a threat but didn’t report it.

“We need to break this culture of silence,” Schuette told students later during an assembly.

Students can make tips 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through multiple means: the phone line (1-855-565-2729), by sending a text to 652729, by email (ok2say@mi.gov), through a mobile app available on iPhone or Android devices, or on the OK2SAY web site (www.mi.gov/ok2say).

“It is very tech-savvy,” Schuette said.

It’s also confidential. Students and adults who call in tips don’t have to worry that their identity will be revealed, Schuette said.

“I love it,” said Lillian Dotson, 17, a senior at the school. “I think it will be great for everyone to use.”

A key feature, she said, is students can report tips in any way that’s comfortable for them – particularly those who might be intimidated by having to go to an adult.

After the press conference, students from the high school and its affiliated middle school gathered in the auditorium to hear speeches and watch a video about cyberbullying. They also got moving – and singing – with Keenan West, an anti-bullying speaker and recording artist who had them sing along to a song written for the OK2Say campaign.
“The biggest thing I learned is to stand up and to help people when they’re getting bullied,” said Alyssa Smith, 13, an eighth-grader.

Eighth-grader Noah Hopkins, 13, said sometimes it might seem easier to just walk away and ignore it.

“You should not walk away. You should actually do something.”

Several of the speakers today said they hope to shatter the culture of silence and replace it with a culture of responsibility.

“This is the day we begin to eliminate that most devastating phone call any parent or family member can receive,” said Sandra York, executive director of the Michigan PTA. “I’m issuing a call to action for every parent, every adult, every family member – make sure you get the message out.”

Detroit Police Chief James Craig spoke of his experiences in a city that had a similar reporting system, saying “I believe it saved lives.”
Mark Ornstein, the CEO of University Preparatory Academy schools, said staff at his schools “takes the safety of students extremely serious.”

“What OK2Say does is it allows us to be proactive,” Ornstein said. “It allows us to deal with a situation before it even happens.”

Tips will go to the Michigan State Police, which will then notify the appropriate agencies.

Contact Lori Higgins: 313-222-6651, lhiggins@freepress.com or @LoriAHiggins

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