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Sep 26, 2014

School Bullying? There's Now an App for That

A new school safety initiative has launched in Michigan, encouraging students, parents, and community members to anonymously share any kind of threatening behavior through a system called "OK2SAY." Kevin Epling of East Lansing lost his 8th grade son to suicide after being bullied by upperclassmen in 2002; he is now the national co-director of Bully Police USA. For preventing bullying, Epling says students are the first line of defense, and "OK2SAY" meets them where they are.

"Making this an app, a Web form, text, hopefully we can start breaking down the barrier that they think there is of telling people, by putting it through technology means," Epling says.

"OK2SAY" allows users to submit anonymous tips about potential harm or criminal activity by phone, text, email, mobile app or on its website. The information is then reported to the school and local law enforcement. More information is at "Michigan.gov/OK2SAY." 

"OK2SAY" was implemented in Colorado following the Columbine school massacre, and police say they have received thousands of tips and helped prevent instances of gun violence, sexual assault, and suicide. Epling believes it's because the system gives people a voice without fear of retribution. 

"That could be a student, it could be a parent can see something at a bus stop, report that," he says. "A parent could overhear something with their children talking about something that's going to happen at school and they can report that."

Epling adds, no piece of technology alone can prevent tragedy; he says it all comes down to communication. 

"That is student-to-student, student-to-teacher, teacher-to-student, teacher-to-parent, parent-to-teacher, parent-to-administrator. That chain of communication has to be open. This is just another tool to use. It's not going to solve problems," says Epling.

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