DeSantis signs Alyssa’s Law to require panic alarms in Florida schools

SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL | By Lisa J. Huriash | JUN 30, 2020

In the school year that starts 2021, every teacher and school staffer in Florida will be able to quietly and quickly tap their cell phone or computer to summon the police.

This safeguard will be the result of a new law signed by Florida’s governor Tuesday in honor of one of the students killed in the 2018 Parkland high school massacre.

Alyssa’s Law — in honor of Alyssa Alhadeff — mandates that mobile panic buttons installed on every teacher and staff’s cellphone as an app or as computer software to be programmed to silently alert law enforcement to emergencies or life-threatening situations on all public and charter school campuses.

Alyssa Alhadeff’s mother, Lori Alhadeff, who successfully ran for a seat on the Broward School Board, flew to Tallahassee on Tuesday to see Gov. Ron DeSantis sign the law, which allocates $8 million for the state to implement the statewide mobile alert system for schools.

She said schools will have access to the app in time for the 2021-2022 school year.

The money pays for the software and properly links it to the local police department, said state Rep. Michael Gottlieb, of Davie, who co-wrote the legislation. The technology is already being used in some school districts in the state, he said.

The app is not just intended to stop school shooters. It could be used for medical emergencies or even fights in school, he said. GPS will track the location of the person making the call, and transmit a signal to law enforcement. The caller, who might be in a panic or unable to make noise, won’t have to speak.

“Everyone can send in information to law enforcement in a more targeted fashion,” he said, and get there quicker.

Alyssa’s Law also was passed last year in New Jersey, where each district can decide if it wants a physical button or a phone app. Her mother said a bill in New York and Nebraska didn’t gain traction this session, but it’s being pursued on a national level in Congress.

Florida Rep. Ted Deutch, a Democrat, teamed with a Republican congressman from Texas to push for the School Violence Prevention and Mitigation Act in July 2019. It would authorize $2 billion over 10 years for schools to figure out their security needs and then address any shortfalls. The legislation, which is still in committee, includes the expansion of Alyssa’s Law.

On Tuesday he called Florida’s law “a model for the rest of the country.”

On Tuesday he said the country hasn’t seen a recent school shooting since schools have been locked down for months because of the new coronavirus.

Lori Alhadeff shows a pendant bearing a photo of her 14-year-old daughter Alyssa, among the 17 people killed during the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Friday, March 6, 2020, at the state Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (Bobby Caina Calvan/AP)

“We shouldn’t have to rely on a pandemic to ensure nothing terrible happens in our schools,” Deutch said.

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