New 24/7 school safety tip line rolls out for new school year

The Wisconsin DOJ launched its Speak Up, Speak Out Resource Center on Wednesday.
Published: Sep. 2, 2020 at 10:41 AM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Heading into the new school year, students, teachers, and other members of a school’s community will have a new tool for reporting threats to school safety or concerns about someone they feel may be in danger.

On Wednesday, the Wisconsin Dept. of Justice unveiled its new Speak Up, Speak Out Resource Center, which it described as a one-stop shop for preventing school violence. Tips can be submitted to it using the Speak Up, Speak Out website. There are also iOS and Android apps, as well as a hotline number (1-800-697-8776).

“Our schools have been one of the safest places for our children, and I want that to always be the case,” State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor said. She added that the tip line will be valuable for students regardless if they are learning online, in the classroom, or somehow in-between.

The new resource center will be staffed around the clock, the DOJ explained. Its analysts will be available to send critical incident teams to schools when warranted, consult with school administrators for threat assessments, and provide safety guidance, including training, safety planning, and other topics.

It will be run by the DOJ’s Office of School Safety. The agency says similar programs exist for more than half of the public middle and high schools in America.

“Whether students are concerned for their own safety or the safety of others, Speak Up, Speak Out can assist them in getting the help they need,” Attorney General Josh Kaul said.

The tip line will also be open 24/7 and can be used to submit concerns about anything from possible violence to mental health issues.

“One of the things that is is most concerning is that mental health of students when they’re not in school,” said Rick Waski, superintendent of the Monroe School District. Waski said his district heard about the new program over the summer, and his staff is working to get the word out to the school community.

After a tip is submitted, trained DOJ analysts will evaluate the tip and contact the right people.

“That could include school administrators, law enforcement or counselors,” Kaul explained.

With the pandemic keeping many kids at home this school year, Kaul said a tool like this tip line is even more important.

“Students often in regular in-person school, interact with a variety of trusted adults, teachers and coaches and principals,” Kaul said, adding, “But right now, with so many students remote or at least partially remote, students have fewer of those opportunities.”

Without that frequent interaction, the tip line can be a resource for students to voice their concerns anonymously.

“Students are very worried about what would happen if they report something because they’re afraid of retaliation,” Waski explained.

With the tip reporting kept confidential, the DOJ and school administrators hope more students will come forward.

“This is a time when it’s important that people stay connected with others and reach out,” Kaul said.

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