Michigan’s OK2SAY Tip Line Sees Increase in School Safety Concerns
The top three categories with the most tips related to school safety in 2022 were bullying, suicide threats, and drugs.
Michigan’s school violence prevention tip line received 7,415 tips in 2022, a 19% increase from the year before and nearly double the tips received in 2020.
OK2SAY, a program launched during the 2014-2015 school year by Michigan State Police, allows students to anonymously report if they hear or see something that poses a threat or could pose a threat to others. In 2021, the program received 6,255 tips — a 67% increase from 2020, according to the 2021 annual report.
Of the 7,415 tips received in 2022, technicians sent information about 3,066 incidents to school officials and 787 incidents to law enforcement, according to the 2022 report. In after-action reports conducted by schools and local law enforcement, 20 tips led to school disruptions, including closures, lockdowns, and evacuations. Additionally, 42 involved the seizure of drugs or alcohol and 26 involved the seizure of weapons.
“We also see a lot of what we call our other tips — our mental health, the anxiety, the stress, depression,” said Mary Gager Drew, program administrator for OK2SAY.
The top category for tips has changed over the years. In 2020, the most tipped category was suicide, supporting previous findings that the isolation of the pandemic significantly impacted student mental health. In 2021, planning a school attack was the most tipped category as schools started reopening, and in 2022, bullying was the most tipped category.
“We see students still struggling with the learning loss due to COVID, but also, they lost a lot of social-emotional support during that time, as well,” said Michigan School Counselor Association Executive Director Sarah Dickman. “We’re seeing students that are struggling in that area and I think that’s reflected in some of the data that we’re seeing with the OK2SAY program.”
Justin Heinze, director of the National Center for School Safety (NCSS), which operates out of the University of Michigan, said it isn’t totally clear why the number of possible threats is increasing.
“Is that because the true incidence of violence or concerning behavior is going up, or are we just doing a better job at getting students and parents and whomever else to recognize some of these concerns and make those reports?” he said. “That’s a difficult thing to kind of distinguish.”
Tips also tend to increase following a school shooting or other act of school violence, particularly in the region where it occurred. Following the Nov. 2021 Oxford High School shooting that claimed the lives of four students, OK2SAY tracked a 2,709% increase in tips in Dec. 2021 compared to Dec. 2020, reports Yahoo.
According to Michigan’s Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office Chief of Administration Betsey Hage, there was a significant uptick in school threats within the county after the shooting, and again after the shooter pleaded guilty to the killings last October. Previous reports also found actual threats of school violence increased nationwide following the shooting. In just one week after the incident, more than 150 threats were made. In comparison, there were 151 school threats for the whole month of September in that same year.
MSP Detective Sergeant Nicholas Norman, supervisor of OK2SAY, said he is hopeful the numbers reflect an increase in awareness of the program, according to WZZM13.
“Whenever a presentation is given at a school, we immediately start to see an increase in tips from that school, because kids are now aware of it, and they immediately begin to use the program,” he said.
To submit an anonymous tip to Michigan’s OK2SAY program, visit ok2say.state.mi.us.
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