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State House considers new program to prevent school violence

Columbine High School

The Michigan House of Representatives is considering a new program to help prevent school violence.

The OK-2-SAY hotline would be available for students, teachers, parents or community members to call and report incidences of violence in schools.

Joanne Spry is the superintendent of Cadillac Area Public Schools. She implemented a similar program when she worked as an administrator in Colorado after the school shootings in Columbine. Spry says students are more likely to report something anonymously.

She wants the OK-2-SAY hotline to help students in any situation when they feel unsafe.

"This hotline provides that opportunity for having an anonymous way for anyone to be able to report and know that that information is going to be taken seriously, and it can be followed up on and used in a preventative or intervention type process," she said.

Spry says students are more comfortable reporting violence  when they know they are anonymous. She says she hopes the OK-2-SAY hotline will provide an opportunity for people to report crimes when they may not have otherwise.

"Research told us that in 81 percent of the incidences that occurred across the United States, someone other than an attacker knew what was going to happen, but we just didn't have a way to get that information ahead of time," she said. "This commission was able to say, you know what, if people are reluctant to report how do we break that code of silence?"

The program is included in the state budget, which has passed the Senate. It now awaits approval from the House.

-Sarah Kerson, Michigan Radio Newsroom