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Gottheimer Announces ALYSSA Act — New Bipartisan Nationwide School Safety Legislation
Stands with Alhadeff family to announce new law - Will require silent panic alarms in all public schools & increase access to School Resource Officers
Today, Tuesday, July 30, 2019, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) stood with the parents of Alyssa Alhadeff, who lost her life in the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, to announce the Alyssa’s Legacy Youth in Schools Safety Act (the ALYSSA Act).
The ALYSSA Act is bipartisan federal legislation that will require silent panic alarms in all schools to immediately alert law enforcement of an active shooter situation. It will also increase investment in more well-trained School Resource Officers, to help protect students and faculty. Gottheimer announced that he will introduce the ALYSSA Act with Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY-21).
The Alhadeff family lived in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, in the Fifth Congressional District, before moving to Parkland, Florida. Gottheimer and the Alhadeffs made today’s announcement on the soccer field at Woodcliff Lake Historic Park. Alyssa was an avid soccer player and was captain of her traveling team.
In February 2019, the State of New Jersey signed legislation, championed by the Alhadeffs, into law that requires all New Jersey public schools to install silent panic alarms that can be activated in case of an active-shooter situation.
Today’s announcement of the ALYSSA Act will bring that requirement to all 98,000 public schools nationwide, and will also cut federal red-tape to create specially-designated investment in bringing trained School Resource Officers to more 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,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “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 seven-year-old and ten-year-old, it is to me, too.”
“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. 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," said Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (NY-21). "Our bipartisan legislation will bring well-trained School Resource Officers to schools throughout our communities, while ensuring that life-saving alarm systems are a staple of every school’s prevention efforts. I am proud to work with my colleague Congressman Gottheimer to honor the life of Alyssa and protect our nation’s most precious asset, our children.”
“We would like to thank Congressman Gottheimer for pushing this life saving school safety measure,” said Lori and Ilan Alhadeff, parents of Alyssa Alhadeff. “We really appreciate the efforts here in New Jersey to keep our children safe in school and I am excited to continue to expand those protections to every student in the country.”
Also participating in today’s announcement were New Jersey Department of Education Assistant Commissioner AbdulSaleem Hasan, Bergen County Education Association President Sue McBride, Woodcliff Lake Council President Jacqueline Gadaleta, Woodcliff Lake Councilwoman Nancy Gross, Freeholder Tracy Zur, Assemblyman and main cosponsor of the original New Jersey Alyssa’s Law legislation Ralph Caputo, Woodcliff Lake Police Chief John Burns, Emerson Borough Council President Gerald Falotico, Woodcliff Lake Education Association president Julia Ogden, and New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association Vice President for Labor Relations Michael Freeman.
"The members of the Bergen County Education Association wholeheartedly thank the Congressman for taking the lead in Washington on an issue that is so critical to the safety of our students and our school employees," said Bergen County Education Association President Sue McBride. "These silent alarms will assuredly save lives. We are proud to stand with him, offering our full support."
Alyssa's Legacy Youth in Schools Safety Act (ALYSSA Act):
Gottheimer’s full remarks as prepared for delivery are below.
I know that Alyssa spent many hours with her friends on the soccer field, which she loved so much, proudly wearing her jersey -- #8. On February 14, 2018, she was robbed of too many years that she should have had on a soccer field, just like this one.
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 legislation – the Alyssa’s Legacy Youth in Schools Safety Act or ALYSSA Act – to help protect children, like Alyssa, and all students, in the one public place they should feel safest — their schools.
On that February day, as we all know, a gunman walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida. He opened fire, barbarically killing seventeen people, including fourteen children, that afternoon, and injuring seventeen others. Children, a geography teacher, a football coach, the athletic director.
It was the deadliest school shooting in our nation’s history. We remember all of the victims -- and those of every shooting, including those killed in Gilroy, California, only two days ago, and those lost and injured just this morning in Mississippi.
Now, Lori, despite all of her grief that day, and every day since, immediately demanded action. She knew this could have and should have been prevented. They knew that her 14-year-old daughter should not have been taken from them like this. So, Lori and Ilan started Make Our Schools Safe, which has become a movement to keep our students and teachers safe, and began traveling the country making the case. Though once from right here in Woodcliff Lake, Lori and Ilan now live in Florida, and have spent the last eighteen months traveling everywhere, advocating for better, smarter school safety measures – all to protect our children and families. I can’t thank them enough.
As the father of a daughter and a son, myself, I truly cannot imagine how Lori and Ilan go on every single day. In spite of all of this, they are charting an entirely new course for all of our children, at schools around the nation.
And Lori, mere months after this tragedy, was elected to the Broward County School Board, where she’s also been fighting for change. What courage.
What the Alhadeff family is doing is something we can, and should, all get behind, and it’s why I am deeply honored to be standing here with Lori and Ilan.
Earlier this year, in February, New Jersey signed legislation into law requiring all New Jersey public schools to install silent panic alarms that can be utilized in an active-shooter situation, like in Parkland. That is New Jersey’s Alyssa’s Law. And it came together through the hard work of Assemblyman Caputo and so many others.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t a silent alarm in Parkland. Instead, a loud fire alarm went off, which caused mass confusion. These silent alarms are utilized by schools in the case of an emergency, such as a lockdown or active-shooter situation. When activated, the alarms remain silent in the building and alert local law enforcement to the emergency via a signal or message
Right now, according to the National Center for Education Statistics only 27% of schools report using silent alarms that are directly connected to local law enforcement. Yes, only 27% of our schools have silent alarms installed that would immediately notify the police of an active shooter. That number is entirely too low, and that’s what we’re going to fix with this legislation. This is an essential security component that can truly save lives.
While I’m incredibly proud that New Jersey worked together to require silent alarms here in our schools, including now here in Woodcliff Lake – all schools, nationwide, need those very same protections.
So, with my good friend, Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik from New York, who has been a great champion on these issues, we will be introducing the Alyssa's Legacy Youth in Schools Safety Act -- or ALYSSA Act -- as that spells out -- into the House of Representatives. And we’ll be working to ensure that students and teachers, throughout our country, are safe.
ALYSSA Act brings the same requirements enshrined in New Jersey’s Alyssa’s Law to all public schools nationwide. That’s more than 98,000 public schools. Under our bipartisan legislation, all of the schools that receive federal funding under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act will be required to install silent alarms, to help prevent another Parkland.
Our bipartisan legislation goes a step further. It will ensure that every school has access to School Resource Officers, SROs, so that schools have a first responder already there, on the campus, in the event of a critical incident. These men and women are in schools every day, they are well-trained current and former law enforcement with the sworn authority to be deployed by a local police department or agency. They get to know the students, they can flag concerning behavior, and students learn to trust them. Many are in schools now and have helped saved lives – like during shootings in Illinois and Maryland in 2018 – which, thankfully, we may have not heard much about, because the heroic officers stepped in and stopped the gunmen in their tracks. Currently, grants for School Resource Officers are available under the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program.
Studies show that schools with School Resource Officers have significantly reduced levels of serious violent crimes, including shootings. Investing in School Resource Officers is simply common sense, as their presence in the halls of our kids’ schools is proven to save lives.
However, there is no guaranteed or consistent funding stream to bring school resource officers to every school nationwide. As a parent, I know that’s something that’s important to me. My legislation will help cut red-tape at the federal level to provide for specially-designated investment to bring trained school resource officers to all schools, without having to meet additional complicated and changing standards from the U.S. Department of Justice.
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 in school. That is, I know, Lori and Ilan’s, number one priority, and as a dad of a seven-year-old and ten-year-old, it is to me, too.
I’m proud to be able to introduce the ALYSSA Act with my friend, Congresswoman Stefanik. She has continuously worked with our colleagues in Congress on bipartisan solutions to help end tragic incidents like what happened in Parkland.
Together, we’ve cosponsored legislation to ban bump stocks, voted to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and passed legislation that was signed into law to reform our federal mental health system. There is certainly more to do, but today marks another key step forward. It’s going to take us all working together.
The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, which I Co-Chair, has also focused on this issue. Following the shooting in Parkland, the Caucus reached agreement on common sense measures to help improve school safety and fund mental illness research, which successfully passed the House of Representatives and Senate in the omnibus funding agreement.
I’m also a strong supporter of the School Violence Prevention and Mitigation Act, led by Congressman Roger Williams and my good friend Congressman Ted Deutch, who represents Parkland, in Broward County, Florida. It’s a bipartisan bill that sets up an optional grant that some schools can apply to for risk assessments and security improvements.
We can’t bring back Alyssa, and I just wish we could see her playing soccer right here on this field. But what we can do is come together, pass the ALYSSA Act, and, as her parents are doing, keep memory and her loss alive forever, saving living across our country.
There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to end gun violence and ensure that our schools are safe. We all have a lot of work to do. I know I do. I will continue to work tirelessly, here in the greatest country in the world, to ensure that every single child and teacher in every single school around our country are safe.
God bless you, God bless Lori and Ilan and their family, God bless all the hard work we still need to do, and may God continue to bless the United States of America. Now, I’d like to introduce Alyssa’s parents, Lori and Ilan.