Lawmakers file bill to require panic buttons in public schools

Bill could be named after student killed in Parkland shooting

By Ashley Harding - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Since the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, the push to make Florida schools safer has been at the forefront. That now includes a possible plan to add panic alarms. Parents and grandparents, like Nanette Rivera, are on board. 

"Of course they need that," Rivera said. "Especially now that the kids, now that a lot of people are bringing guns and things like that. They need that emergency button."

House Bill 23 was filed in August. If it is passed when Florida lawmakers return to the capitol next legislative session, it could be called "Alyssa's Law". Alyssa Alhadeff, 14, was one of the 17 students and staff killed in the Parkland tragedy. 

The bill would require elementary, middle and high schools to have these buttons in each of their school buildings. The panic buttons would be used for a number of emergencies including, but not limited to evacuations, lockdowns, and active shooters.

News4Jax Crime and Safety Expert Ken Jefferson is a retired officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. He says while there is always the possibility for misuse--as sometimes seen with a pulled fire alarm--the benefits are worth the investment. 

"The rewards are greater than the risk. So, there's always that chance," Jefferson said. "As we look at things today, at current events, I think it's a necessity that all students have this particular item in their schools."

Jefferson also says this would be a benefit for police officers already on school campuses. He says this would allow for backup to arrive faster if something happened. For Nanette Rivera, keeping her grandchildren safe in the classroom is worth everything. 

"That's all they have, that's all I have...you know, my grandkids," Rivera said.

Florida Rep. Michael Gottlieb is behind the bill. He tells News4Jax his hope is that districts would pick the alarm model of their choice depending on their available funds. The bill has many steps to take in the legislative process. If it is passed, it would take effect July 1, 2020.

VIEW PDF: House Bill 23 - "Alyssa's Law"

"Alyssa's Law" became law in New Jersey earlier this year. 

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