New Federal Bipartisan School Safety Legislation Being Introduced

Congressman Josh Gottheimer.
Congressman Josh Gottheimer.

U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey said that he is planning to introduce to Congress the Alyssa’s Legacy Youth in Schools Safety Act (ALYSSA Act) to increase response time to active shooter incidents occurring on school property.

The bipartisan federal legislation, named after Alyssa Alhadeff, a victim of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14, 2018, would require that silent panic alarms be installed in all schools that could immediately alert law enforcement of an active shooter situation, similar to a law enacted in New Jersey earlier this year. It would also fund more well-trained school resource officers to help protect students and faculty.

The Alhadeff family lived in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, located in Gottheimer’s 5th congressional district, and later moved to Parkland, Florida. Lori Alhadeff, Alyssa’s mother, founded the nonprofit Make Our Schools Safe to provide metal detectors, bullet-resistant glass and enhanced fencing and gates to meet the specific needs of schools.

“We are here today to honor Alyssa and turn her memory, and the pain her family and friends carry every day, into action. We are here to announce the ALYSSA Act—to help protect children, like Alyssa, and all students, in the one public place they should feel safest—their schools,” Gottheimer commented on July 30 while announcing the bill. “Together, with silent alarms in every school directly connected to local law enforcement agencies and with school resource officers at more schools around the country, we are taking concrete steps to help further protect our children. That is Lori and Ilan Alhadeff’s number one priority, and as a dad of a 7-year-old and 10-year-old, it is to me, too.”

The federal ALYSSA Act proposes bringing New Jersey’s requirement to all 98,000 public school sites nationwide that receive federal funding under Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act. These schools would be required to install the silent alarms at an average cost of $1,000 per school.

When activated, the alarms remain silent in the building and alert local law enforcement to the emergency via a signal or message.

The bill would also ensure every school has access to school resource officers (SROs). Currently, grants for SROs are available under the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. However, there is no guaranteed funding stream to bring SROs to every school nationwide.

This legislation also seeks to cut federal red-tape to provide for specially-designated investment in bringing trained SROs to all schools, without having to meet additional complicated and changing standards from the U.S. Department of Justice.

“The senseless tragedies that led to the loss of Alyssa and too many of our loved ones painfully remind us that more must be done to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all students,” added bill co-sponsor Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York. “Parents across the country should be able to send their kids to school knowing that every step is being taken to keep them safe, and it is incumbent on us to make this the legacy of those we’ve lost.”