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Mich. reveals program to prevent school violence

AP Wire • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:39 PM

Bill Schuette announced the OK-2-SAY initiative alongside law enforcement, lawmakers and officials from Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's office five months after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which left six educators and 20 children dead.

He said the proposal, which will be introduced as bills in the Republican-led Legislature, is intended to break the "culture of silence" by providing a safe means by which students can report incidents that could point to a potential tragedy.

Paul Liabenow, executive director of the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principal's Association, said in about 81 percent of violent incidents in schools, someone other than the perpetrator knew it was going to happen, but doesn't report it.

"The information often goes unreported because of fear of being a snitch ... or then the informant will be violated," he said.

If the proposal is approved by lawmakers, the hotline would be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The identity of the tipster would not be disclosed to law enforcement or school officials unless that person wanted his or her identity to be known. Students and parents would be able to share information by phone, text message, email or mobile app.

Details are still being worked out about who would receive and direct the messages.

The OK-2-SAY initiative will be based on a similar program that was launched in Colorado following the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School when two students killed 12 students and one teacher.

"We cannot wait for the next Columbine or Sandy Hook," Schuette said in a statement. "We must be proactive to ensure our kids are safe both inside and outside the classroom."

Schuette said he wants to fast-track the measure so it's in place by the beginning of next school year.

Michigan State Police Director Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue said the state will also conduct a review of the school safety response plans.

The program is expected to cost Michigan $3.5 million over four years and will be funded from settlements the state has received from various lawsuits, Schuette said.

Sandra York, the executive director of the Michigan PTA, called the hotline an "obvious answer" to the violence plaguing the nation's schools.

"All of us know we do not want to be the one ... that gets that phone call that changes your family's life forever."

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