State forms tip line to get ahead of potential school safety threats

Edu

MADISON, Wis.– Wisconsin is rethinking the idea of lockdowns and police rolling up to a school when a threat comes in. Instead,  a new reporting system aims to handle every tip differently, and it starts with hearing from the community.

The Speak Up, Speak Out website, app and tip line allows students, parents, staff, anyone to get in touch with professionals who are trained to provide the proper response.

“School safety has evolved over the last several years, and for bigger districts, it can be rather complex,” Madison Metropolitan School District Spokesperson Tim LeMonds said.

It’s impossible to prevent all dangerous situations, but LeMonds said having a connection with students will make it easier to get ahead of potential threats.

“There are incidents every year where there is information that comes from the community to a school principal or teacher, but this really does streamline the process,” LeMonds said.

Although many students aren’t physically sitting in the classroom this year, the program is still beneficial to students learning virtually.

“That actually makes this an even more critical time for this program,” Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said.

Speak Up, Speak Out is a new resource through the Wisconsin Department of Justice. The 24/7 system gathers information about potential school threats. The Office of School Safety has staff ready to assign the best support to defuse those threats, which isn’t always police.

“The analysts who are working for Speak Up, Speak Out, they are trained in how to respond to the different tips that come in so that an appropriate response can happen,” Kaul said.

Mental health challenges are one threat that affects more than half of high school students in the state, according to Wisconsin Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor. She said a friend at school can be the one to potentially save their life.

“Students are usually one of the first to know when something is happening between their peers,” Stanford Taylor said. “This Speak Up, Speak Out allows students who hear or see a threat, to say something.”

Tips can be submitted by through the Speak Up, Speak Out Wisconsin app, calling 1-800-MY-SUSO-1, or by visiting the website, which can be accessed here.

“It’s timely because our students are coming back from a summer, I mean I don’t have to tell you. It’s a summer that many of us will never forget,” LeMonds said.

The attorney general said all tips will be vetted and taken seriously. While all submissions are confidential, if a fake threat is confirmed, the IP address of the sender will be handed over to local law enforcement.