By state Rep. Julie Alexander
Jackson County kids are back in class, so now is a good opportunity for students, parents, teachers, and all of us to familiarize ourselves with the OK2SAY program — a key tool to help keep schools in our community safe.
Administered by state police, OK2SAY is a statewide, confidential tip line that helps protect Michigan schools. Anyone can contact the system 24/7 to report possible crime or harm — including self-harm — directed at students, school employees, or schools. This vital program was created in 2013 to help alert officials about school-related danger by providing information about past incidents or warning about potential crises. By protecting the privacy of tipsters, OK2SAY makes it easier for people to speak up — confidently and confidentially.
OK2SAY accepts tips through several different accessible contact points. People can submit tips by calling 855-565-2729 (855-5-OK2SAY), texting 652729 (OK2SAY), emailing [email protected], visiting OK2SAY.state.mi.us online, or downloading the OK2SAY mobile app. Of course, emergencies should always be reported to 911.
After a tip is submitted, the OK2SAY team passes on necessary information to the authorities best equipped to respond to the situation. Primarily, that means schools or police, but incidents are sometimes referred to mental health services, online resources, counseling, crisis lines, or Children’s Protective Services.
The Michigan State Police recently published the annual OK2SAY report for 2021. Since 2014, OK2SAY has received a total of 32,947 tips. Last year, people submitted 6,255 tips, more than half of which came in December, following the tragic Oxford High School shooting. Whether to prevent another such attack, keep drugs and alcohol out of kids’ hands, or get people care for their mental health, OK2SAY is here to help.
A few years ago, my legislative colleagues and I unanimously approved a law to place information about the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on the school ID cards of students at public middle and high schools. Each time they look at their IDs, young people are reminded that they can call 1-800-273-8255 for mental health support. This critical resource is now known as the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, and anyone can call the Lifeline by dialing 988 or the full-length number. Building on that initiative, I strongly support a new plan to add OK2SAY contact information to student IDs, too. Kids should know how they can easily, confidentially report risks to their safety and well-being.
We absolutely must ensure the safety of Michigan students. The new, bipartisan education budget, which I helped approve in July, provides $168 million for safety grants to Michigan schools, plus $25 million specifically to support school resource officers. These law enforcement officers serve in our schools, getting to know students personally while maintaining security. As part of their duties, school resource officers play an important role in responding to some OK2SAY tips.
Because anyone can submit a tip about suspicious or malicious behavior, everyone in our Jackson community serves as extra eyes and ears for school officials and law enforcement. This school year, let’s all be prepared to keep kids safe — knowing that when we see something, it’s okay to say something.
State Rep. Julie Alexander, R-Hanover, represents the 64th House District, which includes the city of Jackson and the townships of Concord, Hanover, Napoleon, Parma, Pulaski, Sandstone, Spring Arbor, and Summit.
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