It’s that time of year again. Children are already crowding the sidewalks in parts of the Upper Peninsula waiting for the school bus. And whether you’re celebrating the arrival of fall weather or lamenting the end of summer, it’s important to notice the change.
The new phase of the year brings with it a change in schedules and activities, and calls for an emphasis on safety.
First is physical security. Children should wear reflective clothing when walking or cycling to school or while waiting for the school bus. Drivers must stop at least 20 feet from buses when red lights are flashing, unless they are driving in the opposite direction on a separate freeway.
It is also important to slow down in or near schools and residential areas.
Anyone driving before and after school should keep an eye out for clues – such as security patrols, school crossing guards, bicycles and playgrounds – that indicate children may be in the area.
These are all great tips in our opinion. But, these days, safety doesn’t 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 talking about threats to the mental and even physical health of our children.
And the days when kids could just come home from school to get away from it all are over. They are connected to the Internet in some cases 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Enter OKAY2SAY – a status program that allows anyone to report harmful behavior from anywhere.
According to Michigan.gov, nearly 38,000 tips were submitted in 2022. There were more than 1,000 reported cases of bullying or cyberbullying in school districts across the state, along with 346 suicide threats and 329 cases. sexual assault, misconduct or exploitation.
As we continue to push the boundaries of connectivity, we must also explore ways to protect our most vulnerable minds from bullies and other ill-intentioned people.
The OK2SAY program, since its inception in 2014, has contributed to this. It allows students to confidentially report information about potential harm or even criminal behavior.
The website itself has resources for teachers and students and even gives advice to encourage others, whether a student is worried about a friend who is being abused or seems suicidal or reports suspicious or bullying behavior.
Not all advice will stop a crime or avert a tragedy, but ensuring a safe space for students to report concerns could make the 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 advice to 652729 (OK2SAY) or email OK2SAY@mi.gov.
We applaud this program and hope that by working together in a variety of ways, students and teachers will have a safe and productive school year.