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"Alyssa's Alert" Bill Passes House Committee

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel

It’s been almost two years since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and in the Florida House, a bill calling for schools to have panic alarms in the event of an emergency is gaining support.

The bill, referred to as “Alyssa’s alert” in honor of a victim of that shooting, was recently heard in the House K-12 subcommittee. Representative Michael Gottleib of South Florida is one of the bill’s sponsors. He says a system that notifies authorities of school emergencies is essential.

“I received a text from my son, who is 16 years old. ‘Under real Code yellow. Love you all.’ That’s the situation we face in schools today. And those kids have no other way [to communicate] other than getting that message to us,” Rep. Gottleib says. “Teachers have no way of disseminating information about a real emergency right now to law enforcement. House Bill 23 allows a panic alarm to save the lives of who might be affected.”

Jeffrey Kelly is a director of business development for Mutualink, a technology company that created an alert for some schools in the state. He says versions of the alert are already in use and have been successful.

“The technology that is being alluded to by Representative Gottleib is deployed here in Florida in 12 counties, over 600 schools, with enormous success,” Kelly says.

Kelly added the alert could be a panic button or an app for school employees and parents, and could broadcast messages from a school’s PA system.

“When a panic button is pressed [there is] instant notification of public safety, all other teachers in staff, and whoever needs to be in the know,” Kelly says. “We can integrate into radios, grab a video of what’s going on, and even lock down a building.”

Members of the committee asked questions about these alerts, including Representative Susan Valdes of Tampa, who asked how an alert would work for students with disabilities.

“If you have a blind student or a deaf student, I don’t know how this works with an app,” Rep. Valdes said.

Kelly responded that the alert could come in many forms to accommodate those needs.

“Us linking or integrating a technology that gives a vibration or a flashing strobe is minimal effort on our part,” Kelly said.

The panic alert technology is estimated to cost $8 million. The committee voted unanimously in favor of the bill.

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Victoria is from Orlando, but spent her childhood in San Antonio, Texas and outside the D.C. area. She is currently a junior at Florid State University studying Communications and minoring in Political Science. Before coming to WFSU, Victoria was a staff writer at the FSView and a volunteer at the campus radio station WVFS. When she’s not at school or writing, Victoria enjoys baking, watching documentaries and playing video games to de-stress.