KALAMAZOO, Mich. – It's been one week since the tragic death of a Wyoming teen who took his life after his family said he was bullied. Now, more students are learning about an anonymous tip line that's in place across the state to help others speak up about bullying.
It’s called OK2SAY, an early warning system that is part of the Michigan Student Safety Initiative. OK2SAY is 24/7 anonymous hotline that officials said is working to stop the silence.
According to a joint study between U.S. Department of Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education, in 81 percent of violent incidents, at least one other person knew about the attacker’s plan but failed to report it before the tragedy took place. Tim Eastman, Hackett Catholic Prep High School principal, said the number one thing needed in order to stop bullying and violence is for victims or witnesses to speak up.
"If we as administrators or school staff don't know, then there's really nothing that we can do,” said Eastman. “It's frustrating. So if we can have some systems, early warning detection, or anything like that, that's important to us."
Monday students at Hackett Catholic Prep learned about OK2SAY technology that was rolled out this September.
Here's how it works: using the website or mobile app, students and educators can call, email, or text in tips on bullying or violence they see or hear may happen. Then operators forward that information to the appropriate school district or agency.
Since September, OK2SAY officials said they have received more than 100 tips across the state, most of which were about cyber bullying or bullying.
"The number one thing is getting parents involved and I see a lot of that on my page already,” said Danielle Cross, cousin of Brandon Larsen. “Just sit down and talk to your kids, because you don't know if they're bullying or being bullied unless you talk to them; they keep it quiet, they do."
This bullying prevention effort comes on the heels of the tragic death of ninth grader Brandon Larsen of Wyoming, whose family tells FOX 17 he took his life because he was bullied.
"I didn't go to my dances because I didn't like the kids because they were so mean to me,” said Cross. “Then I see this happening all the time and we're finally speaking up, and we need to do this. We need to."
Cross started the Facebook page called, Bullying Hurts, in honor of her cousin Brandon. Cross said her goal is to teach kids that it's okay to speak up, and for parents and educators to talk with their children every day.
"If you build that as a family, when they go to school and the kid sees bullying, they're more apt to speak up,” said Cross. “If they come home and tell the parent, the parent can go to the school for the kid. The kids don't necessarily have to make sure everybody knows it was them who spoke up, they can do it anonymously."
Family said there will be a candlelight vigil for Brandon at Wyoming Junior High School Tuesday from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.