By: Jen Russon
School board member Lori Alhadeff endured every parent’s worst nightmare when her daughter Alyssa was murdered along with 16 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School nearly two years ago.
Ever since, her nonprofit Make Our Schools Safe, has worked with legislators generating thousands of petition signatures to push a new bill through the Florida House and Senate, to mandate a panic alarm be placed every public school in the Sunshine State.
Sponsored by Democratic State Representatives, Mike Gottlieb, along with co-sponsor Dan Daley and Senator Lauren Book, FL SB70/HB23 “Alyssa’s Law,” comes before the Pre K-12 Innovation Subcommittee in the Florida House on January 21.
Alhadeff said Alyssa’s Law is nonpartisan; it’s not Democrat or Republican; it is merely a layer of added protection in schools. The bill requires each public school building on the campus of public elementary, middle, or high schools to be equipped with at least one panic alarm.
Alhadeff, who represents District 4 as a school board member for Broward County Public Schools, said she is highly optimistic Florida will join New Jersey in making Alyssa’s Law the law of the land.
“Once that button is pushed, it’s a direct link to law enforcement.” – Lori Alhadeff.
“It’s incredibly empowering to do this in Alyssa’s memory. Just knowing that her life, taken in such a brutal way, was the reason this new layer of protection exists and might save somebody else, is just empowering beyond words,” said Alhadeff, who represents Parkland on the school board.
She added Alyssa might still be here, had the emergency response effort on February 14, 2018, been more immediate and coordinated, both during the shooting and in the bloody aftermath that left 17 dead and 17 more injured.
“Once that button is pushed, it’s a direct link to law enforcement,” said Alhadeff, who added when the panic button is enabled. It silently transmits information to 911 dispatchers and police, giving the caller’s precise location, floor plans, and live video feeds of what is happening in real-time.
The alarms could look like the kind of panic buttons bank workers use, or they might resemble a radio, pendant, or smartphone app.
Alhadeff said the cost of implementing the panic alarms as a smartphone app would cost the state of Florida an estimated $8 million.
When and if the bill becomes law, Broward County Public Schools, along with other districts making up a total of 76 school districts in Florida, will have adequate time to comply.
She said she hopes each school will have the same number of panic buttons, with limited access given to specially trained teachers and other staff and added it might not be up to the school districts to decide what kind of panic alarm system is used, and that Florida state legislators could be the ones to decide, just as New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy did for New Jersey when Alyssa’s law passed in the Garden State in February of 2019.
Florida State Representative Michael Gottlieb echoed Alhadeff when he said he believes Alyssa’s Law will help shorten law enforcement response time.
“This bill uses 911 bypass technology to direct our first responders more accurately in an emergency. I’m proud to be carrying Alyssa’s Law for Lori and Ilan Alhadeff,” said Gottlieb. “The bill will strengthen Florida’s laws and make schools and our children safer.”