Panic buttons, emergency lights could come to all NJ schools
TRENTON — New Jersey schools could be made to install panic buttons and emergency lights that would be used during attacks and emergencies, under a bill being considered by the state Assembly.
The bill, known as "Alyssa's Law," is named for 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff — a former Woodcliff Lake resident who was one of 17 people killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS in Parkland last month.
"Our children deserve the chance to learn in peace," Assemblyman Ralph Caputo, one of the sponsors of the bill, said in a statement. "I am not suggesting this will stop all security threats, but coupled with security measures already in place, it can increase the chances of diffusing a bad situation without further harm to students and staff."
Alarms triggered by the panic buttons would not be audible in school buildings, but would be linked directly to local law enforcement or to New Jersey State Police in communities that do not have their own police departments. Emergency lights would be attached to the outside of school buildings, or on a public roadways, and would be activated whenever the panic buttons are used.
If approved, funding for the measures would come from money borrowed for school construction. The measure passed the Assembly Education Committee this week.
Lisa Yakomin, executive director of the Keep New Jersey Safe Foundation, said a similar plan was introduced in 2013, but vetoed three times by former Gov. Chris Christie. Since the bill was first introduced, Yakomin said, there have been 301 school-related shootings nationally.
"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."
She said support for the bill also does not enter into any debates about second amendment rights, but is "simply about making our schools safer through enhanced notification of law enforcement."
Several schools across the state have already taken other measures to increase school security following the Florida shooting. Some of the steps taken have included increased police presence across districts, or hiring retired police officers as special officers to have an armed presence at the schools. The Bayonne school district, which closed for a day due to a threat made against schools, announced recently that it would add metal detectors at all schools across the district.
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com