DELRAY BEACH (CBS4) – A bill that would have required day care centers to equip each van or bus with an alarm system warning the driver not to leave a child behind failed to pass the Florida House.
The bill was named in honor of 2-year-old Haile Brockington who died last summer after being left on a sweltering Katie’s Kids van in Delray Beach.
While the bill passed the Florida Senate unanimously, the bill’s sponsor, Maria Sachs (D), said politics killed the bill in the state House.
“The Republican leadership in the house made a rule that any bill that had a “D” after its’ name would not pass the house,” Sachs said. The “D” refers to Democrat.
Nelder Lester, Haile’s mother, said she was disappointed.
“It’s terrible because now that can still happen to anybody’s child and it seems like people don’t care,” Lester told CBS 4’s Carey Codd.
The bill’s failure did not prevent Children’s Village Daycare in Fort Lauderdale from installing the alarms in their vans.
Director Bertha Jackson demonstrated the system. A warning voice emits from a speaker in the van once the van’s engine is turned off.
The voice says, “Warning. Kiddie voice has activated. This is to ensure that all children are being removed.”
The voice continues talking until an employee does a sweep of the van and turns off the alarm in the back of the vehicle. If the employee ignores the alarm, it will begin to emit a loud alarm after several minutes.
The alarm system costs a few hundred dollars to purchase and install. There is also a small annual fee to maintain the alarm. However, manufacturers of the product say day care operators will receive a reduction in their insurance costs by adding the extra security feature in the vehicles.
“Regardless of the amount, it was worth it,” Jackson said. “For the precious souls that we carry and the parents to give them that extra security, it needs to be a law.”
Parent Michele Lyons – whose two children attend Children’s Village – said lawmakers should have made the alarm system mandatory.
“Very sad,” she said. “In a way, maybe a little irresponsible.”
Sachs said she is undeterred. She plans to push the bill again next legislative session.
“This summer babies are going to die because this bill didn’t get passed,” she said. “The bottom line is this — we cannot allow politics to get in the way of safety for our kids.”