By David Eggert, Associated Press
LANSING (AP) – Michigan will create a confidential tip line so students can alert authorities to threats of school violence and suicide, modeling the new OK-2-SAY law on a program developed by Colorado after the 1999 Columbine shootings.
Starting sometime in 2014, possibly at the beginning of the next school year, people will be able to secretly report threats of harm or criminal acts against K-12 students, school employees and buildings under the measure touted by Gov. Rick Snyder and top state officials. The hotline will run 24 hours a day and accept tips by phone, text message, email and through a website or mobile app.
Tips will be passed on to local law enforcement and school leaders.
“If we can save just one life … then we will have been successful,” Attorney General Bill Schuette said Tuesday during a news conference at Snyder’s office. The governor signed the law Friday, two days after it won overwhelmingly legislative approval.
Lawmakers allocated $3.5 million to run the program for four years. It will be overseen by the attorney general’s office in conjunction with other state agencies. The state will seek bids to operate the tip line, and the law explicitly lets the state police submit a proposal.
Colorado’s program has fielded roughly 9,000 tips since 2004, documenting and resolving 284 planned school attacks, 1,300 planned suicides, nearly 1,400 drugs/alcohol reports, 2,200 bullying incidents, 569 sex offenses and 320 gun/weapon reports, said Schuette spokeswoman Joy Yearout.
If a tipster suggests a psychiatric emergency is happening, the information will be referred to a mental health crisis hotline.
Tips generally will be exempt from disclosure under the state Freedom of Information Act, though identifying information may be released if charges are filed and the judge determines the information is essential to conduct a fair trial. Prosecutors also can ask for the release of identifying information when suspecting a false report.
Asked why not use 911 instead, Snyder said OK-2-SAY can make kids more comfortable in part because many find it easier to send a text or video.
“I would rather have the tools available,” he said.
Snyder also dismissed concerns that the line may be targeted by pranksters.
“These are serious matters, and I think kids really do appreciate that,” he said.
The law sponsored by Republican Sen. Judy Emmons of Sheridan will expire in 2017 unless renewed.
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.