State legislatures to consider mandatory panic buttons in schools

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State Rep. Michael Gottlieb is pushing legislation for the upcoming 2020 Legislative Session that would mandate panic alarms in public schools.

The measure (HB 23) is dubbed “Alyssa’s Law” after Alyssa Alhadeff, one of the 17 murdered during the 2018 attack at Broward County’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

“Each public school building must be equipped with at least one panic alarm for use in a school security emergency, including, but not limited to, a non-fire evacuation, lockdown, or active shooter situation,” Gottlieb’s bill says.

“The panic alarm must be directly linked to the local law enforcement agencies that are designated as first responders to the school’s campus and must immediately transmit a signal or message to those authorities upon activation.”

A companion bill (SB 70) was filed by state Sen. Lauren Book. Book supported the legislation last Session, but her bill died in committee.

She serves on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission. That body is tasked with investigating the shooting as well as ways to improve school safety throughout the state.

Gottlieb released a statement Aug. 16 to lobby for the legislation.

“This upcoming February will mark two years since the tragedy at Parkland. That’s two years too long,” Gottlieb said of the effort to ensure schools have panic alarms.

“I’m hoping the introduction of ‘Alyssa’s Law’ to the state of Florida is just one way we can honor the young life of Alyssa Alhadeff. First responders will now receive immediate guidance and direction; enabling them to respond more quickly, eliminate a threat, and treat the wounded.”

The MSD Commission met earlier this week, where U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch made an appearance. At a news conference with several of the Parkland victims’ families, Deutch pushed a federal measure that would provide grants for schools that install a panic alarm system.

Though the state measure last Session didn’t gain much traction, a version of the law has already been approved in New Jersey. Gottlieb sounded confident that Florida lawmakers could get on board this time around.

“This is a necessary response to a growing evil in today’s society and a step in the right direction, something that I believe should gain bipartisan support,” Gottlieb said.

“Who wouldn’t want to give these schools a better chance if something like this were to happen again? We must continue this congruent effort until we find some preventative solutions to our mass shooting epidemic.”

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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