Alyssa’s Law first step in curbing school violence; Overcomes school complacency, budget concerns

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By: Debi Davis, COO of Frandme Education

Florida legislators are taking the first step in securing our schools as Alyssa’s Law gradually makes its way toward becoming a reality.

The law was written in response to the tragic shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. It is named after Alyssa Alhadeff, one of the 17 people killed during the shooting two years ago. Alyssa’s Law calls for each public elementary, middle, and high school campus, including charter schools, to have a mobile panic alarm system – rather than a hard-wired panic button — for life-threatening and other emergency situations beginning with the 2021-2022 school year. 

Thankfully, legislators changed the bill so that a “panic button” could be activated from mobile devices rather than buttons located throughout schools, much like fire alarms. The original law, while certainly well intentioned, was impractical and very expensive to implement due to the extensive wiring required. It’s good to see that this change has been made.

Representatives in the House Pre-K-12 Appropriations Subcommittee recently unanimously passed the bill. Two committees remain before the bill reaches the floor. The Senate companion bill has two more stops, as well. Fortunately, it’s likely this important legislation will become law with the next two months.

Legislators should be applauded for supporting a non-partisan bill that will be funded with approximately $8 million. This figure is well within the cost range for deploying and enabling mobile devices by the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The phone app can be uploaded in a matter of minutes and can be fully operational in a matter of weeks.

Keep in mind that this law is an important step in creating safe environments for our students. The biggest obstacle, in our dealings with schools, is complacency. Many administrators cling to the belief that shootings could never happen at their schools even though virtually all of the shootings, nationwide, have occurred in relatively safe, affluent communities. Sandy Hook, Columbine, and Parkland all fall into this category.

As written, Alyssa’s Law has ear-marked funds for this specific task, eliminating schools’ concerns that they couldn’t individually afford these systems.  

Hopefully, the implementation of Alyssa’s Law is a first step in acknowledging dangers and taking specific steps to make our schools safe for students, teachers, employees, and administrators.

Florida has taken the lead in these efforts. New Jersey recently took notice and implemented its own version of Alyssa’s Law.

The $8 million authorized for Alyssa’s Law is a strong initial statement that our politicians take this issue very seriously.

While the mobile app is the most affordable and efficient system, it’s important that it has the following features:

  • Direct notification of an emergency through the app to the proper police and fire departments. They are immediately notified when a “Code Red” is signaled. This also allows first responders to communicate directly with everyone associated with the school regarding lockdowns, end of threat, etc.
  • The system needs to include a communication provision so law enforcement and/or the school can provide status updates to parents, teachers and students.  This would greatly minimize panic and improve crowd control efforts. Teachers, parents, students, and others can receive up-to-the minute updates on the situation rather than get distorted news reports through the Internet.
  • A “danger by me” button that, once activated, tracks the movement of the shooter as he/she moves through the campus. This significantly reduces response time.
  • A GPS locator system that can track an intruder, saving law enforcement valuable time to respond quickly. 
  • Creation of a closed network for each school with the ability to register all students, parents, teachers, and administrators, as well as the proper police department assigned.
  • Registration of alert privileges, allowing only trusted administrators, teachers, and students to activate the “Code Red” alert. 

These types of features overcome many of the problems associated with the Parkland shooting, including:

  • Poor, delayed, and inaccurate communications with the correct first responders.
  • Inability to locate the shooter on the large campus
  • Inability to communicate with parents and students during the crisis

We must stress that the passing of this law is a first step and must be followed by other new policies that will make our schools safer.

Debi Davis is a school security consultant and Chief Operating Officer of FrandMe Education, an app developer with offices in Fort Lauderdale and Miami that has created a platform that enhances school security and communications. It was developed in the aftermath of the tragic shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. For more information, visit www.frandme.education .