Office of the Attorney General
On any given day, as many as 5% of students stay out of school because they are afraid of being bullied. As health care providers know, students who experience bullying are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, headaches, stomach aches, and poor school adjustment. And bullying and bullied students are also associated with suicide and self-harm behavior.
OK2SAY, Michigan's Student Safety Initiative, has been committed to preventing the physical and mental ramifications a negative or dangerous school environment can have on students since its launch in the fall of 2014. It was designed to empower Michigan students to help prevent violence and make their schools safe by confidentially reporting threatening behavior to a state-wide hotline. Tips to OK2SAY can be submitted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, by phone, email, online, text, or mobile app.
Because the National Center for Educational Statistics has reported that 1 of 3 students reported being bullied during the school year, it is important that groups like the MSMS, whose members witness the ill effects of unhealthy school environments in their student patients, have joined the effort. Frontline partners like MSMS and its members can make a difference and have been encouraged to develop a working familiarity with OK2SAY. They can also help prevent violence by screening their school-age patients for bullying and victimization during wellness visits.
Continued growth and success of OK2SAY has been tied to program awareness. Program staff travel the state to give free presentations to make students, parents, and school officials aware of the program. The presentations have educated them on bullying, cyberbullying, dating violence, sexual assault, threats, hazing, self-harm, and suicide. In 2015, more than 131,000 students attended an OK2SAY informational and educational presentation. 2016 numbers are on track to exceed those numbers.
In the majority of violent incidents that have occurred in schools, someone other than the perpetrator of violence knew of the threat before it was carried out but failed to report it. Often, students chose to keep quiet because they feared retaliation, rejection, or stigmatization by their peers. The result is a culture of silence in which students suffer harm that could have been prevented if another had chosen to speak out. OK2SAY empowers students to break the code of silence.
The goal of OK2SAY is to stop harmful behavior before it occurs. Upon receipt of a tip, specially trained OK2SAY technicians address the immediate need and forward the information to the appropriate responding law enforcement agency or organization. Tips go to schools, local law enforcement agencies, community mental health agencies, or the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
To date, over 4,100 tips have been reported to OK2SAY. There are twenty-plus tip reporting categories, though the overwhelming number of tips have been about bullying, cyberbullying, suicide, self-harm, and depression. OK2SAY works. Once appropriate parties have received the tip information, they take action to eliminate the threat. Cases of peer mistreatment have been reduced, weapons have been removed from schools, and students who were threatening suicide received the support they needed.
Please help us keep up the good work that has been done. Commit to helping save lives, restoring hope, and encouraging communication. Get educated on OK2SAY; host a presentation; share this vital resource with your at-risk and in need patients. Contact us for more information on how you can maximize your OK2SAY partnership. Stop the Silence. Help End the Violence.