Students encouraged to “Speak Up Speak Out”

Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 10:51 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - The annual report for Wisconsin’s Speak Up Speak Out program is showing state officials it’s working.

The annual report was released on Monday. This is the second year of Speak Up Speak Out in the state of Wisconsin. It began with a $2-million grant from the federal government.

Speak Up Speak Out encourages students to take ownership in their school’s safety. It’s run by the Office of School Safety which was created in response to the Parkland shooting in Florida in 2018.

Attorney general Josh Kaul said the program shows a 15.2 % increase in tips this year over last.

“Students who have used Speak Up Speak Out have seen that it’s an effective program, and that encourages not only those students, but their friends, classmates and teachers to use the program as well.” Attorney General Kaul said.

Kaul said it’s an effective tool to pinpoint trouble before it gets out of hand.

“People who engage in school violence, they kind of engage in a pattern that leads them to those acts of violence and it becomes more serious over time,” Kaul said.

Wausau West High School responded to a student concern September 14 that was directly relayed to a school administrator.

At that time, Wausau Police Lieutenant Nathan Cihlar told NewsChannel 7 Speak Up Speak Out is a tool for students who fear for their own safety, or are embarrassed to go to an authority figure.

“That is an online tip reporting system that students can report a tip anonymously about school safety concern,” Lt. Cihlar said.

DC Everest School District Assistant Superintendent of Learning Dr. Jeff Lindell says having any kind of anonymous reporting system is more likely to get kids to come forward.

“To have a mechanism where they can reach out to somebody and kind of remain in the background and not be out there is super important,” Lindell said.

“If we can intervene early, whether it’s addressing bullying, or working to improve school climate where there’s a problem, that can help stop somebody from going down the pathway to violence,” Kaul said.

Wisconsin state officials were able to fund the program through December 2023 with an additional $1.8 million of ARPA funds.

Attorney General Kaul says they hope it gets approved in next year’s budget because it’s an effective tool in keeping our kids safe.