Behind the Numbers: Looking at the impact of safety program OK2SAY

Tips up 67% in 2021, top tip: planned school attacks
Posted at 7:06 AM, Aug 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-16 13:36:20-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — 24-7 there is a resource for Michigan students to anonymously report anything they think could be unsafe at school. From weapons and drugs to fighting and sexual assault, reporting is as easy as opening the OK2SAY app on your phone.

In 2021, the U.S. Secret Service recognized OK2SAY as one of the best programs in the nation when it comes to preventing school attacks.

Michigan State Police takes FOX 17 inside the Fusion Center where the OK2SAY team works round the clock to make sure every tip is seen and answered.

OK2SAY safety impact for Michigan students

"I'm really worried about a friend. They said something they posted something I don't know what to do. I want to help. I don't want to be labeled a snitch. I am afraid it might ruin a friendship if I say something," said Mary Gager Drew, program administrator, OK2SAY.

That's the kind of message a teen can send on the app, by text, email, or phone call.

"There are actually 30 tip categories, so anything, anything that threatens a student's safety," said Gager Drew.

"The technicians have to work with the tipsters to build that trust and ask the right number of questions to get enough information to where we can pass that along to schools and law enforcement," said Detective Sergeant Carlos Fossati, Michigan State Police OK2SAY team lead.

6,255 tips came in during the 2021 school year, that's a 67% increase from previous school years. 3,500 of those came in after the tragedy in Oxford.

"For 2021, planned school attacks, unfortunately, were the top threat, or tip category for the year. And a lot of those tips come from directly after the Oxford tragedy there," said Fossati.

Most students tip by text, and this summer the top tips are about suicide and bullying.

Technicians answering those concerns are trained in applied suicide prevention.

"If it's a threat to life, it's immediately going to be going to law enforcement, so they can get their resources going. If it's going to be at a school, we'll immediately follow up with the school as to what's going on," said Fossati.

Currently, tips for 2022 are sitting at more than 4,000. 89% of law enforcement agencies report the information from OK2SAY helps them do their jobs more effectively.

"If we have a situation where there is a planned school attack tip, then we want to know what are the details? The who, the what, the where, the when. Again, it's about building relationships with students online," said Gager Drew.

She continued, "34 weapons were removed as a result of the OK2SAY tips and that 86 tips were involved the seizure of drugs or alcohol, and I think that's a good outcome."

66% of schools report not even knowing the problem existed before the tip.

"These Tik Tok challenges that happen, schools are able to get ahead of it sometimes or at least deal with people that are involved with that as well. So, there are direct rewards for this information being used to impact and take care of a situation at school," said Fossati.

Most parents report not knowing about the problem either. Gager Drew said, "parents are happy, they're happy to be made aware of a situation. And parents are often times not aware of what's going on."

The statistics speak for themselves: 1,536 incidents reported to school officials, 526 incidents sent to law enforcement, 238 incidents referred to counseling, and 65 incidents referred to child protective services.

More importantly though, behind all these numbers there are real children reporting safety concerns and asking for help.

"We had a young student who was just struggling who just wanted a technician to listen to them and all they wanted to do was just sing a song to them because of a Christmas play they didn't get to be in because of a snow storm, but that really negatively affected them, enough to where they wanted to call and share that. It's quite rewarding when you see the impacts they have on people," said Fossati.

Under the Michigan Student Safety Act, OK2SAY cannot release your student's information. To further protect tippers, you cannot access sent tips on the app without a personal passcode.

If students continuously send in false tips, which OK2SAY says is rare, there are consequences.

To call OK2SAY: 855-565-2729

To text OK2SAY: 652729 (OK2SAY)

To email OK2SAY: