Sen. Judy Emmons and Rep. Rick Outman have introduced legislation to help prevent school tragedies before they happen by creating a 24-hour, 365-days-per-year student tip line that would be anonymous and covered by the state.
“As a mother and a grandmother, the safety of all our children is a top priority,” said Emmons, R-Sheridan. “The Michigan Student Safety Act is about enhancing our ability as a state to uncover violent activities before they occur and respond quickly. This starts with knocking down the barriers that intimidate students from telling someone about planned violence in our schools.”
Senate Bill 374 and House Bill 4753 were introduced on the same day Attorney General Bill Schuette, Lt. Governor Brian Calley, Michigan State Police (MSP) Director Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue and state superintendent Mike Flanagan announced the proposed creation of OK-2-SAY, a hotline and educational student safety initiative for the upcoming 2013-14 academic year.
“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 Outman, R-Six Lakes. “I have met with Colorado officials, and I am impressed with the great successes they have achieved. Many tragedies have been prevented because the tip line is confidential, which gives children the security they need to use the program. With all the heartbreaking violence happening in our schools, this effort matters.”
OK-2-SAY is modeled on a Colorado program launched after the Columbine High School tragedy. That program has fielded 7,000 tips since 2004 and resolved 28 planned school attacks, 890 planned suicides, 1,636 bullying instances, 442 sexual offenses, and 275 weapon reports.
“According to the U.S. Secret Service, in more than 8 of every 10 school violence incidents, someone other than the attacker knew about the plan but didn’t report it,” said Emmons, chair of the Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services Committee. “This failure to speak up is often due to fear among students about being a tattletale. The OK-2-SAY will help eliminate this fear by guaranteeing in state law that a reporter’s identity will be 100 percent confidential.”
The bills would create the Michigan Student Safety Act and would require the MSP, in cooperation with the Michigan attorney general’s office and the Michigan Department of Education, to establish, operate and staff a program that:
• Protects the confidentiality of the reporter’s identity;
• Operates 24-hours-a-day, every day of the year;
• Accepts tips by phone, text message, email, website and multimedia device; and
• Promptly provides the information to appropriate school districts and local law enforcement agencies.