TRENTON, NJ – Legislation was recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to expand a New Jersey law under which public schools are required to install silent panic alarms to protect students during emergency situations.
The law (formerly A-764) is known as “Alyssa’s Law,” after former New Jersey resident Alyssa Alhadeff, a 14-year-old student who was one of 17 people killed during last year’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, Florida. The law was sponsored by Assembly Democrats Ralph Caputo, Cleopatra Tucker, Annette Quijano, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Shavonda Sumter, Angela McKnight, Herb Conaway and Eric Houghtaling.
Now just a few months after “Alyssa’s Law” was enacted in New Jersey, the measure has inspired federal legislation to make it the law of the land nationwide. The bipartisan School Violence Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2019 (H.R.3665) recently introduced by Texas Representative Roger Williams and Florida Representative Ted Deutch would require all schools to install at least one silent panic alarm, which when activated would directly alert the closest law enforcement agency of an emergency.
Caputo originally introduced the bill that would become ‘Alyssa’s Law’ in January of 2013 in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Dozens of other school shootings have been reported around the country ever since. This legislation gained renewed interest following the tragedy in Parkland, and the concept of silent panic alarms resonated nationally.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled that Congress is working to expand ‘Alyssa’s Law’ to every school in America,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “We will never forget the tragedies at Sandy Hook, Parkland and countless other schools nationwide, and we must never stop fighting to make sure it never happens again. Silent panic alarms can be useful tools for school personnel and law enforcement during emergencies, from active shooter scenarios to lockdowns to non-fire evacuations. While we cannot prevent every security threat, we can ensure our schools are prepared to diffuse emergencies as quickly as possible.”
“We have to utilize all sensible measures available to us to help our schools defend themselves against an attack,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “These systems help give students, parents and staff the peace of mind that in the case of an emergency, there is a direct link to local law enforcement.”
“A quick response from law enforcement to an emergency can make all the difference in the outcome,” said Quijano (D-Union). “We owe it to these children and the adults charged with their care to give them as much help as possible if they are ever confronted with a life and death situation.”
“In an emergency, every minute counts. It is particularly crucial when children are involved,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Too many schools have been targeted and too many innocent people have paid the price. Beefing up school security to better protect our children is a necessity.”
“Boosting security measures with a silent alarm that would notify law enforcement as soon as it is activated could help reduce the potential for greater harm in an emergency,” said Sumter (D-Passaic/Bergen). “Any measure that can help lessen this risk is a step worth taking.”
“There is no single, quick fix to eliminate the threat of violence in our schools. But there are steps we can take to better protect students and staff if they are ever faced with a dangerous situation. This is one of them,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “This is an investment worth making.”
“No student should ever feel unsafe when they walk into a school building. With this law, we provide a vital connection between students, faculty, and local police that will help them feel safer in the classroom,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “We can’t prevent every emergency, but we must prepare for them as best we can.”
“If one of our schools found themselves facing an emergency, we want them to have every tool available at their disposable to deescalate the situation,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “Making our schools a safe and secure place for children to learn and grow is our top priority.”
The federal legislation would also create federal grant programs for public schools to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities in security related infrastructure. It awaits consideration in the House of Representatives.