Office of School Safety: Bullying and suicide threats top list of tips sent to confidential reporting system

MADISON (WKBT) — Incidents involving bullying and suicide threats were most prevalent in a statewide confidential reporting system, the DOJ’s Office of School Safety said.

The reporting system, dubbed “Speak Up, Speak Out”, was implemented in 2020 as a way for community members to share information concerning potential school violence. Since its inception, Wisconsinites sent 3,772 tips to SUSO.

According to the most recent data, in the past year just over 26% of tips relayed to SUSO concerned bullying. 6.7% of tips were sent in regards to suicide threats and 6.5% in regards to drugs. Weapons-related tips made up 5% of the previous year’s total.

Though bullying and suicide instances might not be what you think of first when you see “school threat.” Attorney General Josh Kaul says those concerns often serve as warning signs.

“Students who engage in school violence often go on a pathway to that violence. The earlier in that process we can intervene, the less likely it is that incidents will happen,” Kaul said.

The system works by having analysts respond to confidential tips, before sending the information to school staff and law enforcement. Each tip is given a disposition report detailing the outcome.

“We have trained analysts whose job it is to analyze the texts that we receive and ensure that the appropriate response is deployed,” Kaul said.

Attorney General Josh Kaul, who faces reelection this fall, touted the program, eyeing plans to continue SUSO in the future.

“SUSO has been a huge success,” Kaul said. “With funding from the legislature in the next state budget, we can ensure that this program and our Office of School Safety will be able to continue their great work keeping kids in Wisconsin safe for the long term.”

Though bullying incidents were the most prevalent tips, in terms of tips OSS said were flagged as “life-saving”, suicide threats made up more than half. Roughly 28% of these flagged tips dealt with concerns of a planned school attack.

“We encourage kids to report when they are concerned about their safety and the safety of others, and that can take a lot of different forms,” Kaul said.

SUSO reports can be made 24/7 at this website, by calling 1-800-697-8761, or by using their mobile app.

The program was first funded by a federal grant, and is currently running under ARPA funds.

The federal funding for the program will run out in December 2023.

Kaul says there is a proposal in the works to fund Speak Up, Speak Out at the state level.

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