MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A bipartisan bill proposed by Florida Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch would aim to improve school security across the country by identifying gaps in security and provide funding to improve security deficiencies.
The bill would also make Alyssa’s Law, named for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting victim Alyssa Alhadeff, a nationwide mandate.
Alyssa’s Law became law in New Jersey earlier this year. In that state, Alyssa’s Law requires each school to have a silent panic alarm allowing a teacher, school employee or administrator to be able to have a direct line of communication with the nearest law enforcement agency in case of a security emergency. Lori Alhadeff, Alyssa’s mother, said the inclusion of Alyssa’s Law in the bill filed Thursday is a huge win for her family.
“My family is so excited to have this part of the bill so that the Alyssa law can go nationwide,” she said.
Alhadeff said the goal of Alyssa’s Law is to save lives.
“That every school can be protected and to have a panic button to push in case there is an intruder on campus and get law enforcement on campus as quick as possible and take down the threat,” she said.
Alhadeff added that the alarm is also critical to get paramedics to the scene of possible violence.
“Time equals life,” she said. “Unfortunately people bleed out very quickly and so we need to get help on the way as quickly to help those victims.”
Alhadeff would like to see a silent panic button in every classroom. She said it could be on the wall, something a teacher wears on their neck or be part of a smartphone app.
The proposed legislation is called the School Violence Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2019. In addition to the silent alarm, the bill would establish a grant program to pay for independent security risk assessments for individual public schools and establish a grant program to pay for security improvements based on that assessment. The bill would create a fund of $2 billion over 10 years for the programs.
In a statement, Deutch said, “Over a year after the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School in my district, our country continues to search for ways to keep our children safe in schools. Part of addressing threats to our schools and students is understanding the gaps in our security plans.” Texas Republican Congressman Roger Williams is co-sponsoring the legislation, which does not have a companion bill in the Senate, as of yet.
Max Schachter’s son, Alex, was murdered at MSD on February 14 2018. Since then, Max has made it his mission to make schools safer by studying the issue, traveling to schools across the country and calling for a national clearinghouse of school safety best practices. He believes security assessments of individual schools is an important start.
“Once schools know what their vulnerabilities are and their gaps are this will provide funding to fix all of those so that we can make all schools safe,” he said.