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Speak Up, Speak Out helps stop threats to schools, before they happen

Josh Kaul at the Neenah Joint School District
Posted at 6:39 PM, Sep 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-13 19:42:15-04

NEENAH (NBC 26) — September marks the two-year anniversary of Speak Up, Speak Out (S.U.S.O.), an anonymous tip line for students to report any concerns.

According to Attorney General Josh Kaul, school safety is one of the state's biggest priorities.

In a visit to the Neenah Joint School District, Kaul discussed how S.U.S.O works with the Department of Justice to stop threats before they happen.

“If students aren’t sure but they think it might be worth reporting, we want to encourage them to report it,” said Kaul.

Once a report is made, S.U.S.O analysts will assess the threat and form an appropriate response. The report is also passed to the school districts and local law enforcement.

“We’ve had situations where in one period there’s something going on at a school and the next period the response is happening already,” said Kaul.

Over the past two years, the S.U.S.O. tip line has helped over 400 Wisconsin schools, including the Neenah Joint School District.

Mental Health Coordinator for the district, Mike Altekruse, recalled a situation where the power of the tip line showed beyond state lines.

“There was a report about someone who they were concerned was using drugs or alcohol in another state, and they were also talking about self-harm. So, our law enforcement was able to contact that state to get a welfare check for that child,” said Altekruse.

Neenah High School Associate Principal, Kyle Popp, believes the tip line is an invaluable resource.

“With so many more kids in our building than staff members, oftentimes they know of things taking place before myself,” said Popp. “[With S.U.S.O.] the students who might not be comfortable to step up and come to me or another adult in the building, [it] gives them a really great, anonymous, and fast way to let us know those situations."

The tipline can be accessed 24/7 by calling 1-800-697-8761, by mobile app, or online.

The American Rescue Plan Act is currently funding S.U.S.O, but only through 2023. Attorney General Kaul considers the program a success and is asking for help from state lawmakers to ensure the future of S.U.S.O.

NBC 26 reached out to Kaul's opponent, Eric Toney, for his comment on the future of S.U.S.O, but did hear a response.