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Students send in 2,165 school violence tips via state app

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More than 2,000 tips about potential school violence came in through a state-created app called “OK2Say” in 2015.

Twenty-three of those tips were about possible school attacks, which a state spokesperson says led to the removal of 14 weapons from schools.

Federal research shows when school violence happens, usually at least one other person – most likely a peer – knew about the attacker’s plan, but didn’t report it. 

So states including Colorado and now, Michigan, have created apps to let students report possible threats anonymously.

“For us, we kind of wanted to make sure that if there’s a Columbine incident or something, or someone had heard something about somebody threatening a school, that these kids would have another avenue to approach law enforcement and let us know what’s going on,” says First Lieutenant Mike Shaw of the Michigan State Police.

Both MSP and the Michigan Attorney General’s office have been promoting the app in school visits.

Meanwhile, nearly 788 tips were about bullying and cyber-bullying, while another 396 tips were about suicide threat.

Shaw says that part came as a bit of surprise.

“I think we were all pretty surprised about the amount of tips that came in from kids, just trying to help other kids they were going to school with,” he says. “And also if they needed some help, as far as they were thinking about harming themselves, [they’re] reaching out to get some assistance.”

The app is monitored 24/7 by trained operators, according to the Attorney General’s office. Andrea Bitely, a spokesperson for the attorney general, said via email that the operators are able to text back and forth with students when they submit tips.

Bitely says the operators “know how to talk to kids” and, when cyber-bullying is the concern, the state operators can walk students through filing a complaint with Twitter or Facebook.

But when the bullying is in person, Bitely says officials try to contact the school safety officer or principal.

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health and the COVID-19 pandemic.
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