Texas bill requiring schools to have panic button system awaits Gov. Abbott's signature

Every classroom in every Texas school will have some type of panic button silent alert system. That will be the law under SB 838 and its House companion Bill HB 669. 

Both bills are known as Alyssa's Law, and they will also apply to charter schools.

"I'm very excited that everybody has embraced Alyssa's law. Come to the table and to say that this is an option to help to create safer schools," said Lori Alhadeff.

Lori's daughter, Alyssa, was one of the 17 people killed in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. After the attack, Lori started a nationwide campaign to improve security on campuses by getting schools to install alert systems.

"I don't think I'm giving false hope. I think that this is another tool in the toolbox for teachers, for administrators, so that they know that once they press that button that is directly linked to law enforcement so that they can come on the scene," said Alhadeff. 

May 1, 2023, would have been Alyssa’s 20th birthday. A few days earlier, Texas lawmakers in a bipartisan effort quickly moved the legislation through the Senate and the House Chambers. 

The Texas Legislature now joins New York, New Jersey, Tennessee and Florida in passing this type of school safety bill. Legislation is being considered in Oregon and Georgia. 

The sponsors of the Texas House and Senate Bills, HB 669 and SB 838, told FOX 7 in a recent report, the idea was not a hard sell.

"I feel that this bill is not a Democrat or Republican issue. This is a life-saving issue," said State Rep Shawn Thierry (D) Houston.

This security upgrade is a state mandate.

"We need better technology because those first 3 minutes of response means everything," said State Sen. Brandon Creighton (R) Beaumont, in a previous FOX 7 interview.

To pay for this extra security, school districts can apply for a state grant. They are not being told exactly what type of system to install.

"You know, we might have large school districts or smaller school districts. And so it's important for the school districts to figure out what is the best way to implement their panic button. And then it's very important that they train on using their panic button," said Alhadeff.

Liberty Hill ISD announced, last year, it would use a hi-tech AI facial and threat recognition system. FOX 7 attended a demonstration back in December. 

There are also systems available that use a phone app to initiate alerts. Others have buttons on electronic cards, which are pushed for notifications.

"But at the end of the day, it's about what meets the needs of that school," said Alhadeff. 

The systems have to be in place at the beginning of the 2025-26 school year.

Before Alyssa's Law was sent to the governor, FOX 7 was told that almost 90% of the school districts in the state had applied for grant money. The governor's office has not said when he plans to sign the legislation.