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‘Alyssa’s Alert’ program to install panic alarms in schools approved by Legislature

The bill is named after a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School victim.

More than two years after the 2018 attack at Broward County’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Florida Legislature has approved a measure requiring a mobile panic alert system in all public and charter schools.

The legislation will next go to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature.

The Senate unanimously approved the measure (SB 70) Tuesday evening. That follows action Monday night, where the measure was taken up and approved by the House.

The two bodies finally agreed on conflicting language featured in the Senate and House versions (HB 23) of the legislation.

The Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Lauren Book, had pushed for a uniform mobile, interoperable panic alert system that would be established via negotiations by the state.

But that mandate drew skepticism as the bill moved through the committee process. Several lawmakers raised questions as to whether that one-size-fits-all system was the best model going forward.

Reps. Dan Daley and Michael Gottlieb, who sponsored the House version, allowed the state to negotiate such a contract in their bill. However, schools were not required to adopt that system.

Ultimately, the House prevailed. They amended the Senate version Monday night, removing the mandate. The bill also dropped the word “interoperable” in describing that system.

The panic alert system would be called “Alyssa’s Alert.” It’s named after Alyssa Alhadeff, one of 17 people murdered during the Stoneman Douglas shooting.

Alyssa’s mother, Lori Alhadeff — now a member of the Broward County School Board — argued such a system would have made a difference on the day of the attack.

“Radios were like bricks; they weren’t working,” Alhadeff said.

“We didn’t have panic buttons. If we had an Alyssa’s Alert, teachers would have seen it on their phones and would have known how to respond properly. They could have locked and barricaded their rooms and got out of the line of fire.”

To set up the model system, the Department of Education would consult with the Division of Emergency Management, the Department of Law Enforcement and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission.

That system “may” be used by a school district. But districts are also free to pursue their own system, so long as it is “a mobile panic alert system capable of connecting diverse emergency services technologies to ensure real-time coordination between multiple first responder agencies.”

The system must also “integrate with local public safety answering point infrastructure to transmit 911 calls and mobile activations.”

New Jersey passed a bill last year requiring panic alarms in public schools. Alyssa also attended school in New Jersey before moving to South Florida.

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

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