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Davis Journal

Parents of kids killed in Parkland shooting come to Utah in support of school safety bills

Feb 22, 2024 10:54AM ● By Becky Ginos
Lori Alhadeff, mother of Alyssa Alhadeff who was killed in the Parkland school shooting in 2018 speaks at a press conference about school safety legislation. Photo by Becky Ginos

Lori Alhadeff, mother of Alyssa Alhadeff who was killed in the Parkland school shooting in 2018 speaks at a press conference about school safety legislation. Photo by Becky Ginos

UTAH STATE CAPITOL—The mother of a girl who was killed in the Parkland shooting in Florida in 2018 and the father whose son was also killed were at the Capitol on Tuesday in support of the School Security Task Force and related legislation. Rep. Ryan D. Wilcox, R-Ogden and Sen. Don Ipson, R-Washington County are sponsoring HB14 and HB84, both bills regarding school safety measures.

“We have some special guests with us today from their home state of Florida,” said Wilcox at the press conference. “We’re here because they invited us out there as part of the work of the Task Force to learn from what they had gone through. To learn from the experiences that they had both good and bad. Because in the wake of the disaster that took place on Valentine’s Day in 2018 when we lost 17 and injured another 17 they weren’t quite as prepared as they might have been.”

They are here today on their own, he said, “so they can help make sure that we are prepared in the event of such a disaster in our own state.”

“My daughter Alyssa Alhadeff, was murdered on Valentine's Day six years ago,” said Lori Alhadeff. “Alyssa was the heartbeat of our family and she was shot eight times in her English classroom. That horrific day my husband and I turned our pain into a reason for action to make our schools safer.”

Alyssa’s Law has now been passed in five states, she said. “Florida, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee and Texas and we want to see it passed here in Utah as a standard level school safety protection in every school so that when there’s a medical emergency or active shooter situation, the teacher can push a button and it’s directly linked to law enforcement.”

“My name is Max Schachter, my little boy Alex was murdered in the Parkland school shooting,” he said. “He was in the same class as Alyssa. When I moved to Parkland, right before the shooting Parkland was rated the safest city in the entire state. When I sent Alex to school, I thought he would come home to me like he had every other day.”

Alex was murdered along with 16 others in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, he said. “After that day I changed my life and made it my mission to make sure that this never happens again. So I travel the country speaking about school safety.”

Florida has continued to prioritize school safety, said Schachter. “We prioritize school safety above education because if kids don’t feel safe, they can’t learn and you can’t teach kids. So I encourage Utah, just because you haven’t had a tragedy in this state make sure that you take this seriously.”

Florida was complacent, Schachter said. “We never thought it would happen in our community. But it can and it does. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when and where the next school shooting will happen. So I thank Representative Wilcox and the entire School Safety Task Force for really focusing on this issue to make Utah schools as safe as possible to make sure what happened in Parkland never happens here.”

“Just to put a little bit of light on this situation and where we’re at with school safety, it’s a real situation just in this school year alone,” said Utah Department of Public Safety Commissioner Jess Anderson. “The number of threats that have come and we are aware of is well over 121 just since August when school started.”

They’re based upon violence, threats of pure violence, he said. “We’ve had 60 school lockdowns throughout the state that are significant and impact our children every single time. We understand the trauma that this causes on the children in our schools.”

“Alyssa lives inside of me and now I’m Alyssa’s voice as well,” said Alhadeff. “Through this law I can keep Alyssa’s memory alive but also knowing that we are creating a standard level of school safety and protection.”

Alyssa was a soccer player and captain of the team, she said. “She loved the beach and being out there. It was the most painful moment in my life to find out that Alyssa was murdered in her English classroom at school. Honestly, six years later and it’s still very raw.”