When thoughts and prayers are just not enough.
Play for Alyssa. Laugh for Alyssa. Live for Alyssa.
These words lay across Lori Alhadeff’s sweatshirt. It’s a constant reminder of her daughter’s love for playing soccer, contagious laughter and the bright life she lived.
Alhadeff lost her 14-year-old daughter Alyssa in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 and injured 17 others in February 2018. She’s been one of many in the Parkland community pushing for changes during the 14 months since the shooting.
Changes enacted in the district include requiring all students, staff and visitors to wear identification on school grounds, as well as initiating monthly code red drills.
Some schools in the county, like Cypress Bay High School in Weston, have been putting in gates to create a single-point entry. Eighty-two percent of schools in the district have this in effect.
After the tragedy, many pointed fingers criticizing law enforcement and the county’s schools superintendent for the failures.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in January suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, and Alhadeff called for the School Board to vote on removing superintendent Robert Runcie.
Fighting for More
Despite these changes, many in the community feel there is much more to be done.
The school district still has not adopted a universal code red policy, Andrew Pollack said.
Pollack lost his 18-year-old daughter Meadow in the shooting.
Since then, he’s made it his mission to make a difference. In the past year, Pollack’s worked on a national, state and local level to fix safety problems in schools. He met with President Donald Trump, helped pass school safety legislation through the Florida House and worked to pass a Senate bill to raise the age to buy a gun to 21.
Changes Alhadeff said she’d like to see are more security cameras, bulletproof backpacks, metal detectors at school entrances and installing a stop the bleed kit in every classroom.
First responders in an active shooter situation are teachers and students, she said. These emergency kits would give them the resources, such as tourniquets, they need to help save others’ lives before medical professionals can arrive to the scene.
Some local private schools, like American Heritage School in Plantation, have already implemented many of these safety and security measures.
Along with increased security cameras, the school created a perimeter around campus with fences and security checkpoints, principal Elise Blum said. She said the school also has a clear bag policy.
“Our goal is for these kids to feel safe on campus so they can worry about normal teenage things like who they’re going to prom with, test scores, homework,” Blum said. “We don’t want them worrying about being shot when they’re on campus.”
Blum said these security advancements cost the school about $500,000. It’s a fee that if implemented across all Broward County public schools would add up to $165 million.
“Thoughts and prayers, it’s just not enough”
Despite the cost, Alhadeff said it’s important to keep fighting for changes.
“Thoughts and prayers it’s just not good enough,” she said. “We need to find common-sense school safety measures to implement in our schools and to stop creating soft targets and do something about the safety of our students.”
Alhadeff ran and won a seat on Broward County’s School Board and created a nonprofit called Make Our Schools Safe.
’s also working to pass Alyssa’s Law, a law that aims to facilitate a faster emergency response time in the event of a school shooting. This law would give every teacher a panic button, either on their phones or physically in their classroom, that when pressed, would immediately alert law enforcement and emergency medical professionals to the scene.
Alyssa’s Law passed in New Jersey, but failed to pass in the Florida Legislature. Alhadeff said she is pushing it through educational committees and hopes to get it attached to other school safety bills.
“We need to be able to activate communication to get law enforcement on the scene as quickly as possible to take down the threat,” she said.
Time, she said, equals life.
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