MICHIGAN - Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order (EO 2020-21) on March 23. With schools across the state of Michigan officially closed until further notice, social distancing has also taken effect to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Students have found alternative ways to keep in touch with friends, such as social media and even online gaming. Students and parents who spend a lot of time online are reminded by the Michigan State Police, and Michigan Department of Attorney General that Cyber-bullying is a crime punishable by law.
The most common places that cyber-bullying occur are online on social media and digital devices through text messaging, and where people can view and participate in, or share content causing embarrassment or humiliation. With Cyber-bullying through digital devices, it can be difficult for children who experience that on a daily basis to find relief and most of time, it’s hard to notice because parents and teachers may not overhear or see cyber-bullying taking place, making it harder to recognize.
According to research from the U.S. Secret Service, 81% of violent incidents happen in schools in the U.S and someone knew of a major threat that would put many lives in danger, but kept quiet and failed to report it. There are times when a student will choose to keep quiet because they fear retaliation, rejection, or stigmatization by their peers. The result of staying silent can have detrimental effects on those individuals who are being bullied.
HOMTV was able to speak over the phone with the Program Administrator for OK2SAY, Mary Gager Drew, and says “OK2SAY launched in September 2014 and since this year in February, we have reached more than 24,000 tips. Kids can report anything that threatens their safety or the safety of others. Our top two categories are suicide, followed by bullying. We also have the other, and that other focuses on issues such as anxiety, stress, depression, harassment, kids on drugs, self harm, and cyber bullying. Anything that threatens kids safety, we'll take that information and get to the right folks and help and intervene.”
Drew added that one thing she tries to encourage kids to understand is that if you’re getting bullied or cyber bullied, “It’s not you and it reflects more on the character of the other person. You are not alone and there are people who love and care for you. Please talk to a trusted adult and you can always contact OK2SAY. If you’re being bullied online, don’t respond because two wrongs don’t make a right. Block that person and change your privacy so your'e not communicating with these types of people in the real world. If there is a kid getting bullied, please reach out.”
The OK2SAY program is aiming to eliminate people from staying silent about a potential threat of violence, where students can work collaboratively with the authorities and respond to threats safely. The program also allows students to report tips of potential harm and criminal activities confidentially and is not limited to the students, employees, and the school itself. The Attorney General offers this program free for students in kindergarten all the way through their senior year in high school and adults can learn about the program by attending their Community Seminar or OK2SAY Implementation Program Seminar.
Tips can be submitted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at https://www.michigan.gov/ok2say/ or using the OK2SAY mobile app, online, email, texting, or by calling 8-555-OK2SAY (855-565-2729)
Remember: it’s OK2SAY. Let’s stand up for student safety.
The full interview can be found on HOMTV’s YouTube channel below.