Wisconsin Attorney General touts success of Speak Up, Speak Out tip line

Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 5:51 PM CDT
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - The Wisconsin Department of Justice is hoping to ensure the future of a statewide school safety initiative.

Since September 2020, more than 400 different schools across Wisconsin have had threats assessed through the Office of School Safety’s Speak Up, Speak Out tip line.

Attendants at the Speak Up, Speak Out Resource Center (SUSO) take calls regarding potential school threats, and quickly connect with the school district the tip came from and local law enforcement.

Attorney General Josh Kaul says SUSO can also provide critical incident response and general school safety guidance.

“Anybody in a school community, whether it’s a student, a teacher, a principal, can reach out and contact Speak Up, Speak Out if they have a concern about anybody in that community,” Kaul added.

In the past year alone, SUSO has contacted hundreds of school districts about a potential tip, including the School District of La Crosse.

Safety Coordinator Scott Johnson recalls a particular instance where the tip line was used this past spring.

“We received a tip from one student that overheard another student saying they were going to cause harm to others,” Johnson said. “The Office of School Safety instantly got ahold of our administration and the law enforcement, and by 7:40 AM the interview and threat assessment had been completed, along with parent notification and school discipline enforced.”

For La Crosse Police Chief Shawn Kudron, SUSO is an invaluable resource.

“It follows the philosophy that our police department and school district are also working towards, a very comprehensive and very collaborative effort at safety for our students, and our staff, and their families,” Kudron detailed.

While Kaul considers the program a success, it may not be around for much longer.

The Office of School Safety was initially supported by more than $2 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Justice, and is currently funded through December 2023 by the American Rescue Plan Act.

Since that funding is set to expire at the end of next year, Kaul is calling on state lawmakers to step in.

“By far, the best way we can fund the Office of School Safety going forward is to have long-term funding from the State Legislature,” Kaul expressed.

The Department of Justice will be requesting the Legislature permanently fund the Office of School Safety in the next biennial budget.