Legal Brief: Alyssa’s Law and its Impact on Integrators

Sept. 7, 2023
State and federal legislation intended to mandate panic alarms in elementary and secondary schools is gaining momentum across the country

This article originally appeared in the September 2023 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter.

I am not a Democrat. I am not a Republican. I am an American and a veteran. I celebrate my country’s successes, and I am critical of its failures. There are many wonderful aspects of American life. Our obsession with guns is not among them – particularly when it comes to protecting our children and maintaining safe schools.

Since 2020, the number-one cause of death for kids in America is guns. In 2022, there were 46 school shootings – more than in any year since the horrific Columbine school shooting in 1999. America’s death rate from gun violence is 4.12 per 100,000 people. Japan’s death rate from gun violence is 0.02 per 100,000 people. Every other industrialized nation has a sharply better rate than does America. This should concern us all.

This is not a commentary on the second amendment and whether people should be entitled to have guns for personal protection and/or hunting. Instead, I mention America’s gun violence epidemic here to lay a foundation for a discussion of a bold legislative initiative launched out of grief and intended to protect children in schools.

In 2018, a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school in Parkland, Fla., saw a former student kill 17 people. These incidents happen far too often in America. Teachers are increasingly expected to transition in an instant from educators to first responders, and children are expected to fend for themselves.

One of the victims of the Parkland tragedy was 14-year-old Alyssa Alhadeff. There was so much more we, as a country, could have done to protect her and the other victims of the Parkland tragedy and other school shootings. Some favor arming teachers. Others favor hardening schools. Some want more mental health counseling. Some want to reduce the number of guns. Some want to do nothing, and unfortunately, those who want to do nothing – a minority of people in the country – seem to be winning.

Thankfully, Alyssa Alhadeff’s family does not want to do nothing. They have channeled their grief into action. Alyssa’s mother, Lori Alhadeff, founded a nonprofit organization, Make Our Schools Safe, an organization aimed at providing safety features tailored to the specific needs of schools. Their efforts have yielded what is commonly called “Alyssa’s Law.”

State and Federal Legislation

Alyssa’s Law is legislation to improve the response time of law enforcement during emergencies in public schools. It mandates that all public elementary and secondary school buildings be equipped with silent panic alarms that directly notify law enforcement.

The lobbying effort to get Alyssa’s Law passed at the state and federal levels has resulted in some disparity in the language of the legislation; however, at its core, the initiative is the same – to mandate the use of silent panic alarms connected to law enforcement so emergency response time is as fast as possible.

Proponents of Alyssa’s Law argue that panic buttons should be considered an essential requirement in all schools, especially in states where a school resource officer is not mandated in every facility, like some public schools. Panic buttons can also be utilized during medical crises or instances of student altercations. Of course, the challenge is not to use them to such an extent that the urgency is undermined or law enforcement becomes dismissive of these types of alarms. If the triggering of such devices becomes routine, the usefulness of the technology will diminish.

Some version of Alyssa’s law has passed in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Texas and Tennessee. Proposed legislation is pending in other states, including Nebraska, Arizona, Virginia and Oregon. Additionally, the U.S. Congress has proposed, but not yet passed, several bills at the federal level (some of which substantively overlap). The proposed federal legislation includes the following bills, all of which intend to add panic alarms and other security equipment to elementary and secondary schools via a variety of government mandates and/or laws:

  • Alyssa’s Legacy Youth in Schools Safety Alert Act (HR 4606);
  • The School Violence Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2019 (HR 3665);
  • Safer Schools Act of 2021 (HR 2717);
  • Alyssa's Legacy Youth in Schools Safety Alert Act or the ALYSSA Act (HR 3661);
  • The Safer Schools Act (HR 3618);
  • The ALYSSA Act (HR 4999); and
  • The SOS Act (HR 5000).

Although there are several federal bills pending, we should not expect uniformity. Congress is struggling to gain consensus on how to manage the gun violence epidemic, both in and out of schools; thus, security integrators should be prepared to assess the requirements on a state-by-state basis and be prepared to adjust to the extent that they operate in more than one state.

Technology to Aid in Compliance

While none of these laws have yet been passed at the federal level, private industry is not waiting for elected officials. Solutions are available now.

One example is a product known as CrisisAlert, made by Centegix, a company that serves approximately 12,500 schools across the country. The CrisisAlert panic button is a wearable badge intended to maximize accessibility and usage.

According to Centegix, CrisisAlert has a single button, generates an instant alert, works inside and outside, does not need a wi-fi or a cellular signal, allows for facility-wide alerts using colored strobe lights, desktop alerts, and intercom integration, pinpoints location of the emergency, and can be installed without substantial disruption to the physical structure and wiring of the school. The CrisisAlert product is among those being offered in states that have passed Alyssa’s Law.

Ultimately, if the law gains widen adoption, more companies will offer these types of products – specifically designed and sold to ensure compliance with the law.

For security integrators, as these laws gain more traction in more states (or even at the federal level), the need for products and services will increase; however, it may not be suitable to take an existing product and market it to schools across the country without ensuring that it meets the requirements of applicable law.

Consequently, security integrators looking to contribute to these school safety initiatives will have to examine the law closely, ensure products and services are compliant with the law, and ensure that they remain compliant if the law evolves. This will require integrators to consult counsel, to understand the technical requirements for their products, and otherwise operate within the expectations of the legislature and the school systems.

Ultimately, the goal is not just to ensure compliance with the law or to make money from selling these products; instead, the goal is to protect children, create safe and secure school environments, and produce informed and educated citizens who can grow up without the threat of violence and help us all do better. We need that.

Timothy J. Pastore, Esq., is a Partner in the New York office of Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads LLP (, where he is Vice-Chair of the Litigation Department. Before entering private practice, Mr. Pastore was an officer and Judge Advocate General (JAG) in the U.S. Air Force and a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice. Reach him at (212) 551-7707 or by e-mail at [email protected].