Be prepared for start of school year

It’s that time of year again. Children are already amassing on the curbs in some areas of the Upper Peninsula waiting for the school bus. And whether you are celebrating the coming of fall weather or lamenting the end of summer, it’s important to note the shift.

With the new phase of the year comes a change in schedules and activities, and calls for a focus on safety.

First there’s physical safety. Kids should wear reflective clothing when walking or biking to school or waiting for the school bus. Drivers should Stop at least 20 feet away from buses when red lights are flashing, unless they are driving in the opposite direction on a divided highway.

It’s also important to slow down in or near school and residential areas.

Anyone behind the wheel before and after school should keep an eye out for clues-such as safety patrols, crossing guards, bicycles, and playgrounds-that indicate children might be in the area.

Those are all excellent tips in our view. But, in this day and age, safety does not start and end with a child’s school day, and it’s not just a physical concern.

Words like cyberbullying and sextortion have unfortunately become more prominent in our vocabulary when we talk about threats to our children’s mental and even physical health.

And, gone are the days when kids can simply come home from school to escape. They are connected to the internet in some cases 24 hours-per-day, 7 days per week.

Enter OKAY2SAY – a state program that allows anyone to report harmful behavior from anywhere.

According to Michigan.gov, nearly 38,000 tips were submitted in 2022. There were over 1,000 reported instances of bullying or cyberbullying in school districts across the state as well as 346 suicide threats, and 329 instances of sexual assault, misconduct or exploitation.

As we continue to push the limits of connectivity, we must also explore ways to keep our most vulnerable minds safe from bullies and other people with bad intention.

The OK2SAY program, since its inception in 2014 has helped to do that. It allows students to report tips about potential harm or even criminal behavior confidentially.

The website itself has teacher and student resources and even gives tips about encouraging others, whether a student is worried about a friend who is being abused or seems suicidal or reporting suspicious or bullying behavior.

Not every tip will stop a crime or avert a tragedy, but ensuring a safe space for students to report their concerns could make a difference for many.

Tips can be submitted on the website at michigan.gov/OK2SAY, or by calling 855-656-2729. You can also text your tip to 652729 (OK2SAY) or send an email to OK2SAY@mi.gov.

We applaud this program, and hope by working together in a variety of ways, students and teachers will have a safe and productive school year.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today