EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - On February 14 2018, a gunman entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, murdering fourteen high schoolers and three staff members.
Among those lost was New Jersey native, Alyssa Alhadeff, who had moved from Woodcliff Lake to Parkland just a few years prior. Alyssa was a fourteen year old student, who played soccer, loved being around her friends, and dreamt of becoming a lawyer. Her life was taken from her, just like the lives of too many killed in mass shootings.
The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas has been a catalyst for change, sparking youth activism around the nation. Just one month after the shooting in Parkland, survivors held a ‘March for Our Lives’ in Washington, D.C., as well as over eight hundred locations world wide. Here in East Brunswick, East Brunswick for Safe Schools held a community wide vigil, both honoring those lost at the tragic shooting, and joining the nation-wide movement for school safety. Parents of those killed, as well as student activists, have been working to pass both stronger gun laws and enacting policies to ensure schools are safer, because “enough is enough”.
Lori Alhadeff, Alyssa’s mom, has been working tirelessly to ensure schools are safer for all students. Lori and her husband Ian joined the movement and created “Make Our Schools Safe”. Both Lori and Ian feel that “they have been called to action”, and have identified a multitude of changes in schools that could have protected their own daughter, Alyssa, as well as the students murdered in schools all across the nation.
On February 6, 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed “Alyssa’s Law/A764”. Alyssa’s Law is a piece of bipartisan legislation crafted to alert law enforcement officials of an emergency. The law requires “all New Jersey public schools to install silent panic alarms that will alert law enforcement during emergencies such as an active shooter, or to employ an alternative emergency mechanism approved by the Department of Education” (Make Our Schools Safe). To be installed after the tenth month of its passing, the law will demand that both primary and secondary schools install panic alarms that activate an inaudible alarm and emergency light.
Alyssa was shot ten times on the day of her death. However, the shots were not fired all at once. The shooter had gotten into the school, easily, and shot Alyssa from outside her classroom. He then left, and a few seconds later returned to the same classroom. There was no where for the students to hide, and nothing for them to do to alert the school and law enforcement. Because of this, Alyssa was then shot again, causing her preventable and unimaginable death.
“Alyssa’s Law” is one piece of legislation on the journey to a safer country. While we cannot stop fighting the issue of public safety and gun control, it is vital to recognize the importance of just this one piece of legislation. This law has the power to save lives in the event of an emergency.
Editor's Note: Jolie Harmon is an East Brunswick High School Student who led the student vigil there in 2018.
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