MEA urges state Legislature to take swift action on Student Safety Act

EAST LANSING, Mich., Sept. 19, 2013 — The Michigan Education Association is urging state lawmakers to take immediate action and pass the Student Safety Act, which would establish a new tip line and an online interface to allow students to anonymously report safety threats.

This week’s shooting near Lansing’s Sexton High School emphasizes the need for a comprehensive program to address threats to student safety.

The state Senate in June unanimously passed legislation to create the program, dubbed “OK-2-SAY.” Since then, Senate Bill 374 has sat dormant in the House Appropriations Committee.

“Safety is one of the most pressing issues facing our schools, and indeed our society,” MEA President Steve Cook said. “Teachers and education support professionals can’t help students reach their full academic potential without a safe learning environment in place. MEA strongly supports the Student Safety Act and urges Michigan lawmakers to make its passage a top priority.”

School shootings and other harmful acts rarely happen without some kind of warning. According to the U.S. Secret Service, 93 percent of school shooters exhibited “concerning behavior” to others prior to their attacks. Many people fail to report suspicious behavior out of fear of retribution or being shunned as a “snitch.” Sadly, silence all-too-often leads to tragedy.

If adopted, the Student Safety Act would create a comprehensive communications infrastructure that would provide students, school employees and parents with a way to anonymously submit tips to law enforcement and school administrators about potential or present threats to student safety. By allowing tipsters to discreetly submit information over the phone, online or via text message 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the OK-2-SAY initiative would help head off threats like school violence, bullying, intimidation, self-harm and harassment.

A similar program in Colorado has been hugely successful since its launch following the Columbine shootings. Since 2004, Colorado’s program has taken in more than 8,000 tips, and has aided in the prevention of 266 school attacks, according to officials in that state. It has also resolved at least 890 planned suicides, 1,636 bullying instances, 442 sexual offenses and 275 weapon reports, according to officials.

According to Michigan officials, the OK-2-SAY program can be in place by December, provided the House takes action now.

Contact: Nancy Knight, MEA Acting Director of Public Affairs, 517-337-5508