The Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Office of School Safety has launched a resource center for the public to consult when concerned that schools or students are endangered.
It has been aptly named SPEAK UP, SPEAK OUT.
“It’s a comprehensive, one-stop place where students or other members of the school community can turn with any school-safety concerns,” Attorney General Josh Kaul said. “And it offers a variety of different tools that are going to help keeps schools in Wisconsin safer.”
Among those tools is a 24/7 threat-reporting system where students and others in the community can submit tips about suspected threats to themselves, their classmates or their school.
Tips can be submitted online, via the SUSO Resource Center mobile app, or over the phone.
Upon receiving a tip, a trained analyst will respond by deploying the appropriate resources – ranging from communication with school administrators, to counseling or law enforcement.
“In certain cases,” Kaul said, “law enforcement would be contacted. But the analysts who are working for SPEAK UP, SPEAK OUT are trained in how to respond to the different types of tips that come in, so that an appropriate response can happen.”
Other tools provided through the resource center include threat-assessment consultation, critical-incident response and general school-safety guidance.
The Wisconsin DOJ announced the launch of its program Sept. 2, at an online news conference.
Appearing at the news conference was Wisconsin Superintendent of Public Instruction Carolyn Stanford Taylor, who expressed support for the initiative and the benefits it would bring with it.
“Schools have traditionally been one of the safest places for our children,” Stanford Taylor said. “Unfortunately, dangerous situations can happen anywhere, at any time. But the more society works together, the more we can prevent such dangerous situations and keep our schools safe.”
Stanford Taylor said the resource center provides students a safe place to report their concerns.
“Students are usually one of the first to know when something is happening between their peers,” Stanford Taylor said. “SPEAK UP, SPEAK OUT allows students who hear or see a threat to say something. It’s quick, easy and confidential. And it could mean the difference in saving a life.”
Similar tip lines have been implemented in other communities, Kaul said, and are now available to the majority of public middle- and high-school students throughout the nation.
More than half the principals surveyed in those communities said the tip line prevented violence.
“This program is clearly going to help make students in Wisconsin and school communities in Wisconsin safer,” Kaul said. “So this is an exciting step forward for school safety in Wisconsin.”
The SPEAK UP, SPEAK OUT Resource Center was made possible by more than $2 million in grant funding the federal DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.