BERRIEN SPRINGS — According to police, in the majority of violent incidents that occur in schools, someone other than the perpetrator knew of a threat before it was carried out, but failed to report it.
But in Michigan, an intervention program called OK2SAY is helping to remove fears that cause students to keep quiet, and violence is being prevented before it happens.
That was the case this week at Berrien Springs High School, where police are investigating a threat of violence that was reported Wednesday.
Berrien Springs-Oronoko Township Police Chief Paul Toliver said the OK2SAY tip line was used by students who had heard about the threat, violence was averted and a 15-year-old boy is in custody.
According to police and school officials, students often keep quiet because they fear retaliation, rejection or stigmatization by their peers. But in the case the high school principal received a call from the OK2SAY tip line, and he called police. The tip stated that a student had been asking other students for help to obtain a weapon to shoot students at school.
Student witnesses reported to the anonymous tipline that the boy talked about needing help to get a gun and said he wanted to shoot several students, then himself. No weapons were seen or found at the school. The 15-year-old boy was arrested on a charge of threatening to commit violence with a firearm against students or employees on school property, a 10-year felony. He is being held at the Berrien County Juvenile Center. Police have not released his name.
"The OK2SAY tip line was used by students as intended and alerted school and police officials of a potential incident," Toliver said in a news release. "Berrien Springs Public Schools has been promoting this tip line as a safe way to report any unsafe activity, and the safety and security plans in place at the school system worked as designed."
OK2SAY allows students to confidentially report tips on potential harm or criminal activities directed at students and/or school employees. It uses a comprehensive communication system to facilitate tip sharing among students, parents, school personnel, community mental health service programs, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and law enforcement officials.
Tips can be submitted 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by telephone, text message, email, mobile app or via the OK2SAY website. The program is available free to all Michigan schools.
For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/ok2say
Contact: jswidwa@TheHP.com, 932-0359, Twitter: @HPSwidwa