ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD) – The state of Michigan is stepping up efforts to save students’ lives.
Thursday, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette visited Rockford Middle School to promote the state’s OK2SAY program. The initiative allows students to confidentially report potential suicide situations, as well as violent or criminal acts targeting students or schools.
OK2SAY was approved in 2013, but went into effect about a year ago. In that time, the attorney general’s office said it received more than 1,400 tips. Schuette said more than half of the tips were related to bullying or cyber bullying, but there were also tips about suicidal thoughts, fights and weapons.
The attorney general’s office reported an OK2SAY tip led officers to an armed student, who was arrested. The program also helped avert one fight and saved at least one life.
“We had a student last year who opened up a text conversation with OK2SAY and it started out with something as simple as, ‘I don’t know who to talk to,’” said Matt Bolger, an inspector for Michigan State Police. “Not only was he contemplating suicide, but he had the means, he had the method and he was prepared to do it that day.”
Bolger said technicians reached out to the student’s school.
“The school reached out to the parents – nobody had any idea that this kid was struggling. They got a hold of the kid and got him help,” said Bolger.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth between ages 10 and 19, according to Schuette’s presentation Thursday.
Students who watched the presentation listened to the stories of several Michigan teenagers who had been bulled, then committed suicide. The overlying message: suicide is never an option.
“This whole culture of silence, of don’t be a narc, don’t be a snitch, don’t be a rat – how stupid is that?” said Schuette. “We’re trying to build a new culture of responsibility.”
According to the state, one in four teenagers said they’ve been the target of electronic abuse.
“[Bullying] is just something that apparently people say, ‘well, that’s part of growing up.’ Well it’s not. It doesn’t have to be. We can help students understand that there’s a better way to communicate than being forceful or bullying or oppressive to somebody else,” said Rockford Superintendent Dr. Michael Shibler.
Shibler tells 24 Hour News 8 signs for OK2SAY will be posted district-wide- in bathrooms, on school buses, and eventually on student IDs.
“If we can save just one life with OK2SAY then we have been successful,” said Schuette.
To download the OK2SAY app, students can text 652726. Tips can also be submitted on the program’s website.