Speak Up, Speak Out program grows in its second year

Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 7:01 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - More than 130 potentially lifesaving tips were reported through Wisconsin’s Speak Up, Speak Out program in the last school year, according to a report from the Wisconsin Department of Justice Office of School Safety.

Speak Up, Speak Out is a statewide confidential reporting system that provides a place for students and community members to share information about school violence, with the hope of keeping schools and students safe.

The program is in its second year and the report from the Office of School Safety said it received more tips than the first year, by more than 15%.

David Chapin, School Resource Officer with the Eau Claire Area School District, said this program is a really important tool.

“It’s essential to have in order for people to report stuff anonymously without that ability,” Chapin said. “Sometimes that discourages kids and students and even parents from reporting things. This is a way for us to be able to know about that and investigate it thoroughly in all situations.”

The program is used in schools across the state, with the aim of keeping students safe.

“We’ve received now over 4,000 contacts to Speak Up, Speak Out and they run the gamut,” Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said. “We’ve received a number of contacts about bullying. We’ve also received some contacts where there’s concern that a student might harm themselves. Sometimes there’s a concern that a student might harm others. In each of those cases, we have a trained analyst who knows how to respond.”

Tips can be submitted through the program’s website, over the phone, or through its app.

“Students often learn about concerns to safety before adults do,” Kaul said. “So, if reports are made early in the process, that can lead to an intervention before a student progresses along the pathway to violence, and that can help us address problems and keep kids safe.”

Chapin said the school district has also received a variety of tips through the Speak Up, Speak Out program.

“A lot about juvenile mental health, inappropriate pictures on cell phones being sent around, internet safety stuff,” Chapin said. “It’s kind of been a wide range of stuff we’ve investigated through this.”

Kaul said he hopes the program continues to grow in its use.

“Over time, our hope is to see engagement grow as schools see the difference that this program can make and as students see that it makes a difference and can help keep themselves and others at their school safe,” Kaul said.

The report states more than 300 Wisconsin schools have received at least one tip from the Speak Up, Speak Out program in the last school year. Kaul said Speak Up, Speak Out has been funded through federal programs, allowing it to continue through the end of 2023. After that, he hopes the legislature will include state funding in the upcoming budget for this program.