Robert Sacco, a contractor with the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, speaks to eighth-graders at Jefferson Middle School Jan. 23.

Robert Sacco, a contractor with the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, speaks to eighth-graders at Jefferson Middle School Jan. 23.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske


Students encouraged to be active listeners, reporters with OK2SAY

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published January 30, 2018

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Suicide. Cyberbullying. Online predators. 

While parents might think these are things that could never happen to their child, the office of the Michigan attorney general is working to make sure that students and their parents know the dangers online, on social media and through messaging, and what to do about them.

Robert Sacco, a contractor with the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, spoke to students at Jefferson Middle School Jan. 23 about OK2SAY, a service that promotes students making anonymous tips to a state dispatch service about potential violence, bullying and more at their school.

The office also held a presentation for parents in the district that evening.

“There are five age-appropriate presentations,” said Sacco. 

The past three attorneys general have had some sort of internet safety program, but Attorney General Bill Schuette has expanded the program to cover students in grades K-12. 

“Technology has changed everything,” Sacco told eighth-graders at Jefferson Middle School in Lakeview Public Schools. 

Students watched several videos dealing with topics that included bullying via text, sexting, internet stranger danger and the ways they can step up to help by talking to counselors, teachers or coaches, or anonymously through OK2SAY.

“Doing the right thing sometimes is difficult,” Sacco said. “With OK2SAY, you can have that powerful impact as (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) did.”

He told students that nine out of 10 bullying incidents happen on social media, but there are apps like reThink that help users take a moment and think about what they are about to text or post before they do so.

“It does have an impact when people are thinking before they’re sending,” he said. “The people who do the bullying do not see past their own nose.”

And no matter what is being said, Sacco told students, “Suicide is never the answer.”

He told students that they should come up with a code word, sentence or group of emojis that they can send their parents if they ever need to be removed from a situation and they don’t want to say so with peers watching over their shoulder. He also warned them that their online presence never goes away, something to keep in mind when applying for jobs or college.

“You won’t hide. It’s always on the servers. Think before you send,” he said. 

“It made me realize, like, we need to change what we do,” said Zaria Pitts, an eighth-grader who saw the presentation. She said she hasn’t experienced much cyberbullying herself, but she knows it happens. “I know other people have gone through it here.”

This is the second time that Jefferson Middle School has hosted the Attorney General’s Office for the presentation on internet safety, Principal David Lavender said. 

“Kids are exposed to social media sites and technology not always knowing how to best behave,” he said. “We can all work together to make sure kids are safe and making the best decisions.”

They opened the program up to parents, he said, because while parents may trust their own child, they may not know what sort of situations children and teens are exposed to.

“Knowing techniques to monitor ... if we can help parents help kids, that’s a major benefit to this program,” Lavender said. 

To learn more, visit michigan.gov/ag and click “Outreach” and then “Michigan Cyber Safety Initiative.”