Panic buttons, silent alarms could come to all NJ schools
TRENTON — A law that would put panic buttons and emergency lights in all New Jersey schools Monday cleared the state Assembly.
The bill will now be considered by the state Senate before potentially being sent to Gov. Phil Murphy for approval.
Known as "Alyssa's Law," the bill was named for 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff, a former Woodcliff Lake resident who was among the 17 people killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The bill would require all elementary and secondary schools to have panic alarms for emergencies such as non-fire evacuations, lockdowns or active shooter threats.
These alarms would be connected to the local police departments, or to the New Jersey State Police in towns that do not have their own law enforcement agencies.
"A quick response from law enforcement to an emergency can make all the difference in the outcome," Assemblywoman Annette Quijano said in a statement. "We owe it to these children and the adults charged with their care to give them as much help as possible, if they are ever confronted with a life and death situation."
The funding for the alarms would come from the Secure Our Children's Future Bond Act, which voters approved in November. The School Development Authority would be charged with establishing a program to ensure that the alarms are properly designed and installed.
Assemblywoman Angela McKnight said that while there is "no single, quick fix" to eliminate threats against schools, the bill is at least one step in a much longer process.
Lisa Yakomin, executive director of the Keep New Jersey Safe Foundation, said a similar plan was introduced in 2013, but vetoed three times by then-Gov. Chris Christie.
"With each day that goes by, with every new incident, the evidence supporting the need for enhanced security measures grows," she said.
Yakomin has a personal stake in the bill — as she said her youngest daughter went to school with Alhadeff. She described Alhadeff as "smart, beautiful, engaging, athletic, compassionate and loved by everyone who knew her."
Since the Florida shooting in February, districts across the state have already taken several steps to increase security, including hiring armed police and security and installing other safety features.
Previous reporting by Michael Symons was included in this story