Marjory Stoneman Douglas Commission discusses Alyssa’s Law compliance among Florida school districts
SUNRISE, Fla. - Making Florida schools as safe as possible is a top priority in the state. With the new school year right around the corner, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Safety Commission met Tuesday to give important updates on laws and measures in place to keep Florida students safe.
According to the agenda, topics tackled during the meeting included an update on the Office of Safe Schools, a presentation on the proposed changes to radio and 911 communications, as well as to the threat management team.
Also on the agenda was an update to Alyssa's Law. It was put in place back in 2019 and named in honor of Alyssa Alhadeff, a 14-year-old student who was gunned down during the Parkland massacre.
Following the tragedy, her mom, Lori Alhadeff, advocated for each teacher and staff member to have a panic button on hand, so if the unthinkable were to happen again, they could alert law enforcement quickly.
"Those seconds really matter to get law enforcement on the scene to take down the threat, and EMS to come in and triage the victims to save lives," Lori Alhadeff said.
On Tuesday Sylvia Ifft of Florida's Office of School Safety, told the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Safety Commission that a majority of Florida's 67 districts are in compliance with Alyssa's Law. This means physical buttons in school buildings and virtual ones on laptops and phones are properly integrated with county 911 centers.
She also said during the meeting: "We have identified a number of districts that we are going to need to do some additional follow up with."
She wasn't specific on which aren't in compliance, but said some delays are because testing is more extensive than anticipated.
Currently, all school districts in Florida are required to have a mobile panic alarm system in place. It’s a critical tool that can connect with first responders and law enforcement for everything from a school safety threat to medical emergencies. It also pinpoints the person’s exact location, so others know where the person was on campus when pressing the button.
READ: Parkland shooter trial a rare, graphic look into one of the worst mass shootings in the U.S.
Commission Chair and Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told FOX 13 that Pinellas Schools tested their alert system during a larger drill last month. Hillsborough schools confirmed the same.
"Is this integrated in all 67 districts and working on every campus?" asked Gualtieri. "As we sit here today, what she is saying is we can't say that with certainty. We don't know. That's what we have to find out."
The sheriff did say schools are "much safer" than they were the day of the Parkland attack, which killed 17 people in 2018. Not only are there more armed security officers, but buildings are tougher to get into and all 4,000 schools in the state have threat assessment teams.
For Alhadeff, full implementation of Alyssa's Law is one more way to prevent others from living her nightmare.
"I never thought that my fourteen-year-old daughter would be killed in her English classroom," she said. "I never thought this would happen in Parkland. But it did happen."
Gualtieri said the Florida Office of Safe Schools will be tasked with making sure all districts are in compliance with Alyssa's Law, hopefully by the time the commission meets again in November.
We have checked with the Florida Office of School Safety on whether any districts in Tampa Bay are still building their Alyssa's Law system, but have not yet heard back.
Sheriff Gualtieri also gave an update regarding House Bill 1421, also known as the school safety bill that was signed into law earlier this summer by Governor Ron DeSantis.
It focuses on increasing mental health crisis intervention training, as well as making sure law enforcement is involved and present with schools when they practice active shooter drills. The bill also requires each school district to have a reunification plan in place to be able to reunite students and parents in the case of an emergency.