MMSD promotes anonymous reporting app for student safety

MADISON, Wis. — The Madison Metropolitan School District began promoting a state run program which gives students, teachers, and members of a school’s community a platform to provide anonymous tips about school safety issues.

Speak Up, Speak Out was launched in September of 2020 by the Wisconsin Department of Justice and since then more than 15 hundred tips were sent via the program, leading to 200 school safety concern referrals and dozens to police.

“We really wanted to make sure that we had the systems in place internally so once we rolled it out we really wanted to make sure we could support it,” said MMSD Safety Communications Spokesperson Liz Merfeld.

The District’s Office of School Safety Director of Cross Systems and Critical Response Gina Aguglia said while staff always hopes to build relationships with students directly they understand children aren’t always comfortable reaching out.

“Kids don’t always want to tell on their friends or they don’t want to be the one that you know talks to a teacher,” said Aguglia. “We don’t want to keep them from disclosing something because they are concerned about saving face or what their peers might say and do.”

Aguglia also shared Speak Up, Speak Out data that shows a majority of kids, 61 percent will talk to each other about safety concerns but only 1 in 8 will share those concerns with their families and even fewer will tell their school.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul is a program advocate and he said the pandemic has made Speak Up, Speak Out all the more important.

“That has led to more isolation as well as more strain on people here in Wisconsin and around the country, ” he explained.

Kaul, who has two children of his own, expects the app to extend beyond keeping kids physically safe but mentally too.

“One person reached out and mentioned that a friend wanted to commit suicide and as a result a welfare check was made,” he shared. “Parents were notified of the situation and the student was offered mental health counseling.”

Speak Up, Speak Out is currently present in 80 percent of Wisconsin schools. The app is available in more than 30 different languages.