Never too early to learn ways to stay safe

The official program logo shows stranger danger when using computers

When do you tell? Who would you tell?  

Speaker Susan Jacwiec, representing the State Attorney General’s office, presents safe concepts to third grade students

Since 2013, the Michigan government has been providing free programming to help children answer these questions through the OK2SAY program.

The program aimed at ending silence and giving young people a safe place to report incidents that make them feel threatened is for the first time being brought to Kent City Elementary students.

“It is critical that we begin to have meaningful conversations about mean behavior, bullying and online safety with even our youngest students,” said Elementary Assistant Principal Will Lepech. “From an early age, children can begin to identify these behaviors and develop a plan of action if they are a victim or witness them happening to others.”

Rules for figuring out when and who to tell were outlined and displayed with videos. But while the rules — such as identifying a stranger — may seem easy to follow on the streets, it can be more difficult online, said presenter Susan Jazwiec from the State Attorney General’s office.

Students are asked to count the number of times the speaker uses word ‘safe’

The students learned that any response — even a simple “hi” — can be dangerous when playing a game online.

While these youngest students may not have yet experienced online threats or bullying, it is essential for them to recognize what bullying is and how to report it, according to Lepech.

“The OK2SAY initiative is one part of this ongoing conversation that we are having with our elementary students,” he said. “The goal is to provide students the information and tools they need to confidently stomp out mean behavior and stand up for each other.”

CONNECT

SNN story identifies program specifics

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Janice Holst
Janice Holst has been both a teacher and a journalist. A former MLive reporter, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and is thrilled to spend some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts. Read Janice's full bio or email Janice.

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