According to StopBullying.gov, between 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 U.S. students say they have been bullied at school. Most bullying occurs around middle school, with the most common types being both verbal and physical.
The bullying prevention approach that some schools use includes communication between teachers, administrators and even bus drivers. Many steps have been taken by schools to prevent bullying, but unfortunately, bullying still resides in many schools today.
A relatively new program, OK2SAY, has been implemented in several schools and communities across the state of Michigan, including Okemos High School. OK2SAY encourages students and residents to submit confidential tips regarding their or another person’s safety. The tip line runs 24/7, and you can submit a tip online, through e-mail, texting and there’s even a mobile app.
Michigan.gov says that on November 13, 2013, Attorney General Bill Schuette’s safety initiative OK2SAY was considered by the Michigan House Appropriations Committee.
The bill was approved by the governor in December of 2013, and went into immediate effect the same day.
Once a tip has been received, a trained police technician will assess the situation and forward the information to the appropriate source. The tips will go to the administration of the specific school. Also potentially involved are local law enforcement agencies, community mental health agencies, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Okemos High School decided to implement the program soon after the bill had passed.
“OHS has publicized the program for the past three years through a variety of mediums for students and families,” said Christine Sermak, principal of OHS. “We encourage our students that to use the confidential tip line, OK2SAY, if they are uncomfortable coming to school personnel or a trusted adult.”
“It’s about getting kids the help they need,” said Mary Drew, Administrator for OK2SAY. “We’re trying to break the code of silence.”
According to Drew, bullying was the most popular tip category between 2014-2016. In 2017, the most popular tip category was suicide, then bullying, followed by other (anxiety, stress, depression and harassment), self harm, and finally, drugs.
Since 2013, OK2SAY has received nearly 11,900 tips, which has assisted those in need.
Drew says that the children who call in tips are considered the “heroes of the hallway”, and frankly, those kids have been making differences in the lives of those who need help the most.
“Our youth has so much to deal with, and sometimes they feel like they don’t have anyone that they can talk to,” said Christine McQuaid, a parent from Meridian Township. “This is a great opportunity for them to be able to pass along the information and feel like they are doing their part to help a classmate or save a classmate.”
OK2SAY will provide a free presentation for any school that explains the program and all the benefits it provides. OK2SAY is completely confidential, and it won’t release the identity of the person who submits a tip.
“I’m grateful that a program like this exists,” said Drew.
Between September 9, 2014 and February 28, 2018, over 486,000 tips have been received. It looks like people are taking advantage of the program, and those numbers are likely to increase.
If you would like more information on OK2SAY, visit http://www.michigan.gov/ok2say