Michigan’s OK2SAY program praised in fed school violence report

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette at Cass Tech High School where he discussed the OK2SAY program in 2015.

A federal commission examining school violence is recommending a Michigan program that allows users to anonymously report criminal activities or potential harm directed at students, school staff or schools.

On Tuesday, the Federal Commission on School Safety released a 177-page report detailing 93 best practices and policy recommendations for improving safety at schools across the country.

The commission cited Michigan’s OK2SAY program as states, districts and schools look for ways to monitor social media and mechanisms for reporting cyber-bullying incidents.

OK2SAY allows students to confidentially report tips on potential harm or criminal activities directed at schools, students or school employees.

The program uses a communications system to facilitate tip sharing — about harmful behaviors that threaten to disrupt the learning environment — among parents, school personnel, students, community mental health service programs, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and law enforcement officers.

OK2SAY has received 16,685 tips since it started in September 2014. It has a free mobile app that allows users to submit real-time confidential tips. It also has a toll-free number: (855) 565-2729, text option: 652729 (OK2SAY) and email: 

Tips can be submitted 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

The program received 686 tips in the month of November, including 174 related to suicide, 121 relate to bullying, 60 related to drugs and 46 related to self-harm, state officials said.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, whose office runs the program, has been working with Florida and Texas to get their own versions of OK2SAY in place.

"Attorney General Schuette’s OK2SAY team has created an initiative that works," Schuette spokeswoman Andrea Bitely said."OK2SAY works by being where kids are — on their phones  and in the classroom — to make sure they have a place to turn if they are scared, being bullied or have information that could help prevent a tragedy.”

The commission's report, which offers a holistic approach to improving school safety, ranging from supporting the social and emotional well-being of students to enhancing physical building security, was released after months of research, visiting successful programs around the nation, and receiving testimony from experts and concerned citizens, federal education officials said.

In the report, the commission called for a rollback of an Obama-era policy that was meant to curb racial disparities in school discipline but that critics say left schools afraid to take action against potentially dangerous students.

The panel made the recommendation in the report that lays out dozens of suggestions to improve safety in America’s schools. President Donald Trump created the commission in March following a Parkland, Florida, school shooting that killed 17 students and staff members.

Among the chief proposals is a rollback of 2014 guidance urging schools not to suspend, expel or report students to police except in the most extreme cases. Instead, the guidance calls for a variety of “restorative justice” remedies that don’t remove students from the classroom.

“Each of us has an important role to play in keeping our students safe while at school,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who is also chair of the Federal Commission on School Safety.

“This report provides a wide-ranging menu of best practices and resources that all state, community, and school leaders should consider while developing school safety plans and procedures that will work for their students and teachers."

The full report can be found here.

The Associated Press contributed.