State School Safety Bill Could Go National

David Cruz, NJTV News | July 31, 2019 | Education
Rep. Josh Gottheimer promises to take New Jersey’s Alyssa’s Law, which requires panic buttons to be installed in all public schools, nationwide

Assemblyman Ralph Caputo had watched for years as his bill to require all schools to have panic alarms installed and linked to local law enforcement passed the state Legislature only to be repeatedly vetoed by the previous governor. Tuesday morning, the veteran Newark lawmaker watched as a local congressman promised to take the law, signed by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy in February, national.

“This is all about saving lives, saving the time between when an incident occurs and when the police can get there. It doesn’t deter anyone from committing insane acts, but it can save lives in terms of the time required to bring police to the scene,” Caputo said.

Caputo’s bill, called Alyssa’s Law and named for Parkland shooting victim Alyssa Alhadeff, requires the state’s public schools to install silent alarms that alert local law enforcement about life-threatening or emergency situations.

“Right now, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 27 percent of schools report using silent alarms that are directly connected to local law enforcement. Only 27 percent,” said Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-5th).

Joined by Alyssa’s parents at the municipal complex in Woodcliff Lake, the congressman said he would introduce a bill this week to require panic alarms at public schools across the country and make federal funds available for school resource officers. The Alhadeffs, who are former Bergen County residents, said they would support the effort.

“There’s so many kids that have died. And that’s what I say to our congressman, to our elected officials: Why are we not getting this done? This makes sense and this will save lives. How many people need to die before we wake up and make a change?” mother Lori Alhadeffs asked.

“A lot of folks are in denial. Like Alyssa said ‘It can never happen in Parkland. It can never happen in Woodcliff Lake.’ It can never happen, until it happens, and that’s the reality,” said father Ilan Alhadeffs.

The Jersey bill used money approved by state voters to help fund the systems and the extra security. The congressman says it costs about $1,000 to install a panic alarm system at a school. As for school resource officers, that will cost millions, which may make this seemingly common-sense bill a heavier lift in Congress.