- The U.S. House of Representatives is weighing the bipartisan School Violence Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2019, which would require that all public schools install at least one silent panic alarm that would inform the closest law enforcement agency of an impending emergency situation, NJ.com reports.
- The state of New Jersey passed a similar law, called Alyssa’s Law, in February that requires all of the state’s 2,500 public schools to install at least one silent panic alarm.
- The New Jersey law was named after Alyssa Alhadeff, a former student at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who was among the 17 killed during a school shooting in February 2018.
The School Violence Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2019 would not only require schools to install silent alarms, but it would also authorize the spending of $2 billion over a 10-year-period to identify security risks at schools and address any shortfalls.
School security has been high on the list of concerns for district leaders and state and federal officials. Most have agreed schools should take a more proactive approach to safety, but many of these measures cannot get off the ground without enough support and funding.
The Federal Commission on School Safety that convened last year to explore these issues recommended an increase in armed school personnel and mental health professionals to help address these issues, but some groups like The School Superintendents Association (AASA) felt that these approaches were not affordable for many districts. This new bill, if it passes, may provide more funding to improve school safety.
While many school safety measures — including the installation of silent alarms and security cameras — may help school officials and law enforcement officers during a threat, many school leaders feel more emphasis should be placed on prevention. Preventative strategies such as increasing mental health services, improving social-emotional learning and school climate, and creating threat assessment teams may better serve as long-term solutions. It is not yet clear if this new bill will, in its final form, also provide funding for these initiatives.