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Parents of murdered Parkland students applaud Utah for $100 million school safety law

This article was originally published in Utah News Dispatch.

The mother of Alyssa Alhadeff, a student killed during her English class in the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, stood before a room full of lawmakers and state officials on Wednesday.

Lori Alhadeff held a portrait of her daughter in her arms as she applauded Utah for becoming the sixth state to pass “Alyssa’s Law,” legislation mandating silent panic alarms in classrooms directly related to law enforcement.

“We are taking important steps forward in protecting the well-being of our children,” Alhadeff said, adding that the bill “represents our collective commitment to providing a safe learning environment for every child in Utah.”

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Bill against school shootings

The 2024 Utah Legislature passed HB84 last month, and Utah’s governor did. Spencer Cox signed it into law on March 12. The sweeping School Safety and Security Act not only includes “Alyssa’s Law,” but also creates a set of uniform, minimum safety standards that all Utah schools must adhere to. It designates armed school employees as guardians, requires reporting of threats if employees are aware of a particular safety issue, and links the state’s SafeUT Crisis Line to Utah’s intelligence database.

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To enact HB84, the Utah Legislature approved $100 million in one-time funding and $2.1 million in ongoing funding.

To highlight HB84 – along with seven other bills packaged together as legislation that will benefit Utah’s future generations – Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson solemnly signed the bills Wednesday at the University of Utah’s Bennion Center.

HB84’s sponsor, Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, said his bill is intended to address a reality in the U.S. that “will not go away for us.” School shootings, he said, are not a tragedy that we can pretend isn’t happening.

He thanked the parents of the Parkland, Florida, shooting victims for their help in drafting legislation in Utah to ensure that “when our children go to school, the only thing they worry about is learning in place of catastrophic violence.”

“That’s not something they should worry about. But it is something we do,” Wilcox said. “It is the responsibility of parents, schools and adults who can do much more to prepare and make sure they don’t have to worry about it.”

Henderson replaced Utah Governor Spencer Cox, who was originally expected to attend the signing but was unable to do so due to a family emergency. His wife, first lady Abby Cox, underwent spinal surgery Wednesday to remove degenerative discs in her neck after “weeks of debilitating pain,” the governor’s office said.

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Henderson applauded HB84 and other bills aimed at improving opportunities for Utah’s youth and parents.

“We are a family-friendly state,” Henderson said. “We care about our children, our educators, our education system. We care about the future. And this is an opportunity where our money is where our mouth is.”


For many teachers, gun lockouts and the fear of school shootings are now inescapable

Legislation for the benefit of future generations

The full list of bills that Henderson ceremoniously signed included:

  • SB205 provides $1.5 million to provide instruction on child sexual abuse and human trafficking. It was supported by the non-profit organization The Policy Project, which hopes it will help reduce sexual abuse.

  • HB75 allows a state employee to use parental leave for a variety of reasons, including time with a child or an incapacitated adult for whom the employee assumes a parental role, including foster care. It also allows a state employee to use postpartum recovery leave to recover from a delivery that occurs after 20 weeks or more, and provides flexibility so that they do not have to use the leave in one continuous period.

  • HB105 uses $8.4 million in one-time state money to increase the amount of funding available to teachers for classroom supplies. It provides $500 to go to elementary teachers and $250 to go specifically to middle and high school teachers for classroom supplies.

  • HB192 directs school districts to develop paid leave policies for parental and postpartum recovery. It requires a minimum of three weeks off for someone adopting, becoming a foster parent, a grandparent taking custody, or a spouse of someone giving birth, and also requires six weeks of paid postpartum leave for Utah residents who give birth.

  • HB221 uses $8.4 million to provide $6,000 stipends to support teachers while they are full-time student teachers.

  • HB272 increases legal standards in child custody cases with the intent of protecting children from abusive parents. It was called “Om’s Law” after Leah Moses’ 16-year-old son, Om Moses Gandhi, who was murdered by Moses’ ex-husband.

  • HB84 uses more than $100 million in one-time funding and $2.1 million in ongoing funding to increase school safety and security. SB206 uses $3.3 million to create a pilot project called the One Utah Service Fellowship Program, which will provide stipends and grants to young adults who participate in a year of community service, according to the University of Utah. Participants would receive an hourly wage and a $7,400 scholarship in exchange for 1,700 hours of service with an approved partner organization.

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Utah News Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Utah News Dispatch maintains editorial independence. If you have any questions, please contact editor McKenzie Romero: info@utahnewsdispatch.com. Follow Utah News Dispatch on Facebook and Tweet.

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