What comes to mind when you think of Valentine’s Day? Perhaps it’s candy hearts, flowers, and ”I love you”’s exchanged with the most important people in your life? For Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Valentine’s Day of 2018 was the scene of the most tragic and devastating mass shooting in U.S. History.
A bloody day
On that day, Lori Alhadeff, Alyssa’s mother, received a text message: ”shots fired at Stoneman Douglas High School, kids running and jumping the fence.” Lori played the odds in her head. Out of 3,400 students, it couldn’t have been in Alyssa’s classroom. It couldn’t have been Alyssa.
Unfortunately, though, the odds didn’t protect Alyssa or the other 16 victims that day. Not only was ineptitude and inaction among law enforcement officials to blame, emergency preparedness was completely absent. Alyssa Alhadeff’s death unleashed a passion and drive in her mother. Lori’s determination to change established school safety measures has not wavered since that fateful February day.
Not long after the tragedy, Lori Alhadeff created a national non-profit organization called Make Our Schools Safe. The mission is to improve the safety of schools, better research, and test best practices, and then implement those protocols by creating model schools. Make Our Schools Safe takes action where needed and helps to strengthen weaknesses in school safety and security.
Kicking off changes
Today, Make Our Schools Safe is helping to initiate changes in school safety at both the local and national levels. Response time by law enforcement officials on February 14, 2018 was painfully slow. Lives were unnecessarily lost because of miscommunication and lax response time.
In order to help remedy this failing, Alhadeff’s initiative, called the Alyssa Law, was created. The Alyssa Law, which calls for the placement of silent panic buttons in all public schools, has already been signed into law in New Jersey. Most recently, the Alyssa Law was introduced on a national scale in Washington, DC by Florida state representative Ted Deutch and Texas state representative Roger Williams under the School Violence Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2019.
Working with enforcement
Getting law enforcement on campus fast enough is paramount to saving lives. The odds are that, if the Alyssa Law had been in existence prior to February 14, some of those precious lives could have been spared. It only took one minute and 44 seconds to kill and/or maim the 24 victims in Parkland. These silent panic buttons are essential to school safety and preparedness in the event of an emergency. Next to the fire extinguishers, A.E.D.s, and Stop the Bleed kits, a silent panic button must be the standard. The safety of all of our children in the United States is in our hands. As Alhadeff says, “your voice is your power.” Use your voice to pass this essential legislation mandating the use of silent panic buttons in schools today.
Lori Kitaygorodsky, Communications Director, Make Our Schools Safe, [email protected]