Parents of Slain Parkland Students Applaud Utah for $100M School Safety Bill

‘We put our money where our mouth is’ for future generations, Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson says during ceremonial signing.

This is a photo of Utah Gov. Deidre Henderson signing a school safety bill into law.
Lori Alhadeff (left) holds a portrait of her daughter, Alyssa, who was killed during the 2018 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida while Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson (center) ceremoniously signs HB84, a sweeping school safety bill. (Courtesy of Utah Lt. Governor’s Office)

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The mother of Alyssa Alhadeff, a student who was killed in her English class during 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 that are directly linked to law enforcement.

“We are taking momentous steps forward in safeguarding our children’s well-being,” Alhadeff said, adding the bill represents “our collective commitment to providing a secure learning environment for every child in Utah.”

Anti-school shooting bill

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

To enact HB84, the Utah Legislature approved $100 million one-time money 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 ceremoniously signed the bills on Wednesday at the University of Utah’s Bennion Center.

HB84’s sponsor, Rep. Ryan Wilcox, R-Ogden, said his bill is meant to address a reality in the U.S. that “isn’t going 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 helping craft Utah’s legislation and ensuring “when our kids go to school, all they’re worried about is learning rather than catastrophic violence.”

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

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

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 that we put our money where our mouth is.”

Legislation to benefit future generations 

The full list of bills Henderson ceremoniously signed included:

  • SB205 provides $1.5 million to provide instruction on child sexual abuse and human trafficking. It was supported by the nonprofit 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 for a child or an incapacitated adult with whom the employee is assuming a parental role, including foster care. It also allows a state employee to use postpartum recovery leave to recover from a childbirth that occurs at 20 weeks or greater and provides flexibility so they don’t have to use the leave in a single continuous period of time.
  • 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 school classroom teachers and $250 to go to middle and high school teachers specifically for classroom supplies.
  • HB192 mandates 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, as well as requiring six weeks of paid postpartum leave for Utahns who give birth.
  • HB221 uses $8.4 million to give stipends of $6,000 to support educators while they’re full-time student teachers.
  • HB272 raises legal standards in child custody cases with the intention of protecting kids from abusive parents. It was named “Om’s Law” after Leah Moses’ 16-year-old son, Om Moses Gandhi, who was murdered by Moses’ ex-husband.
  • HB84 uses over $100 million in one-time money and $2.1 million in ongoing funding to increase safety and security in schoolsSB206 uses $3.3 million to create a pilot project called the One Utah Service Fellowship Program, which provides stipends and scholarships to young adults who participate in a year of community service, according to the University of Utah. Participants would receive an hourly stipend and a $7,400 scholarship in exchange for 1,700 hours of service with an approved partner organization.

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. Contact Editor McKenzie Romero for questions: info@utahnewsdispatch.com. Follow Utah News Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.

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