Federal lawmakers seek to emulate New Jersey’s ‘Alyssa’s Law’

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, Fla. Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, who represents New Jersey’s 28th Legislative District, which is in Essex County, was the primary sponsor of the law, along with Assembly members 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, recently introduced by Texas Rep. Roger Williams and Florida Rep. 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 became “Alyssa’s Law” in January of 2013 in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. 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,” Caputo said. “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.”

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.

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