Lori Alhadeff’s 14-year-old daughter Alyssa did not come back from school a little more than six years ago. Alyssa was a victim of one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history when 14 students and three staff members were killed at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day in 2018.

Now, Alhadeff is working to prevent tragedies similar to the one that took her daughter from her by advocating for school safety reform across the country through her nonprofit, Make Our Schools Safe. Alhadeff celebrated the signing of Alyssa’s Law — a Utah bill, named after her daughter, that mandates public schools be equipped with silent panic alarms that are connected to local law enforcement — in Salt Lake City Wednesday.

Alyssa’s Law is part of HB84, a comprehensive school safety reform bill sponsored by Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, that was signed into law by Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson at a ceremonial bill signing at the University of Utah’s Bennion Center. The bill was also signed by Gov. Spencer Cox, who was unable to attend the ceremony due to a family emergency, Henderson said.

HB84 was one of eight bills Henderson signed Wednesday that focused on family-friendly legislation that affects Utah’s future generations.

‘The most comprehensive school safety legislation in the country’

In October of last year, Wilcox toured Marjory Stoneman High School in order to learn about the massacre and how to prevent a similar one from happening in Utah.

Max Schachter, whose teenage son was killed in the shooting, led the tour. Of the 220 individuals and 25 states on the tour, “Utah brought the largest contingent through the building,” Schachter said Wednesday. “Rep. Wilcox came and spent a tremendous amount of time there and he gathered all the lessons learned so that he can bring that to Utah and made sure that it never happens here.”

Schachter thanked Wilcox for sponsoring the legislation, and commended Utah for working to improve school safety. “Utah is not waiting until the next tragedy strikes here. They’re proactively going out there implementing lessons learned, taking the terrible tragedy that happened in Parkland and making school safer in Utah.”

Wilcox also attended the ceremonial bill signing, where he called HB84 “the most comprehensive school safety legislation in the country.”

HB84 establishes a statewide school safety system through a variety of measures including implementing Alyssa’s Law, creating a guardian program requiring every school to have at least one armed security personnel and establishing minimum safety procedures for schools — including better communication systems — and requiring reporting by state employees and others if they become aware of any threats to schools, the Deseret News previously reported.

“The reality is that this isn’t something that is going away. It’s not in our country. It’s not something that we can pretend like isn’t happening,” Wilcox said, emphasizing that the legislation will allow students to only worry about “learning rather than catastrophic violence.”

Alhadeff also spoke on the importance of Alyssa’s Law, holding a picture of her daughter and saying she was “filled with immense excitement for the progress Utah is making toward ensuring the safety of schools with the passage of this robust school safety bill, which includes Alyssa’s Law.”

Utah is the sixth state to pass Alyssa’s Law, following New Jersey, Florida, New York, Texas and Tennessee, according to Make Our Schools Safe.

“This law signifies more than just a piece of legislation. It represents our collective commitment to providing a secure learning environment for every child in Utah,” Alhadeff continued.

“With panic plans in place, we empower teachers and staff to swiftly respond to emergencies, potentially saving lives in the process. Let us embrace this momentous occasion and optimism and determination, knowing that we’re making tangible strides towards a safer future for generations to come here in Utah.”

Lori Alhadeff, mother of Alyssa Alhadeff, shakes hands with Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson following the signing of HB84, a comprehensive school safety reform bill, at the University of Utah Bennion Center in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, April 10, 2024. Alyssa Alhadeff was a victim of one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history when 14 students and three staff members were killed at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida, on Valentine’s Day in 2018. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News

‘A family-friendly state’

Seven other bills that focused on families and education were signed into law at Wednesday’s bill signing.

Among those were SB205, Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Amendments, which provides funding for child abuse prevention training at Utah’s elementary schools, and HB272, Child Custody Amendments, also known as Om’s Law, requiring a court to consider any evidence related to domestic violence when determining child custody cases.

Henderson also signed two bills relating to parental leave, including HB192, which expands parental leave for teachers, and HB75, which “broadens parental leave for state employees and now includes foster parents,” as the Deseret News previously reported.

Two more bills affecting Utah’s educators were also signed, including HB221, Stipends for Future Educators, which gives stipends to student teachers completing teacher education programs, and HB105, which gives educators $500 for teaching supplies and materials without having to “dip into their own pockets,” Henderson said.

SB206, meanwhile, creates the One Utah Fellowship Program, which would give young adults who volunteer at qualifying nonprofit organizations and agencies a stipend for college or higher education expenses.

At the ceremonial bill signing, Henderson emphasized that the eight bills signed into law Wednesday all help Utah become even more family-friendly.

“We are a family-friendly state. We care about our children, our educators, our education system. We care about the future, and this is an opportunity to show that we put our money where our mouth is.”