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Lori Alhadef: Advocating for School Safety

Content warning: gun violence, death

Feb. 14, 2018, may have started like any other Valentine’s Day for Lori Alhadeff (Alpha Beta chapter of Sigma Delta Tau at the University of Rhode Island), but it quickly became one of the most devastating days of her life.

Around 2:30 p.m. that afternoon, Lori heard reports that shots had been fired by a teen gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where her 14-year-old daughter Alyssa was a student. Like so many other parents and loved ones of students and staff at the high school, Lori immediately drove to the school to locate Alyssa. Unable to find her at the school, Lori headed to a reunification center in hopes of being reunited with her daughter. Hours after she initially learned about the shooting, Lori received the news no parent ever expects to hear: Her daughter was one of the 17 individuals killed during the shooting.

Alyssa and Lori Alhadeff (Sigma Delta Tau, University of Rhode Island)

“That was the most traumatic moment of my life,” Lori recalled. “My husband and I wanted to turn our grief into action, so we started a nonprofit organization called Make Our Schools Safe.”

The organization is dedicated to increasing safety for teachers and students in schools through specific legislation known as Alyssa’s Law, which addresses law enforcement response time. The legislation calls for panic buttons in classrooms so teachers can immediately notify law enforcement of a life-threatening emergency, allowing police to respond as quickly as possible.

Alyssa’s Law passed in New Jersey in 2019 and in Florida in 2020; it is considered “in progress” in New York, Texas, Nebraska, and Arizona. Alyssa’s Law has also been introduced at the federal level.

“My husband and I wanted to turn our grief into action, so we started a nonprofit organization called Make Our Schools Safe.”

“The legislative process is tough, and in every state it’s different,” Lori said. “It’s a lot of time and lobbying. I’m the one speaking at committee meetings, sending emails, having calls, and I’m doing this out of my passion and my heart. I don’t get paid; nobody on our board gets paid. We don’t hire lobbyists—it’s very grassroots.”

Donations to Make Our Schools Safe also support several other important safety measures, including social-emotional learning programs, suicide prevention training, community safety presentations, scholarships, retreats, and more. Notably, donations help to fund Make Our Schools Safe Clubs in high schools, which aim to help students create a culture of safety in their schools. Donations also help support the purchase of many Stop the Bleed kits and training. Stop the Bleed is a program from the American College of Surgeons (ACS) that is administered by the ACS Committee on Trauma. The training course teaches three techniques that can save a life by helping to prevent someone from bleeding out.

In addition to launching the nonprofit organization after the tragedy, Lori ran for the Broward County School Board and won. She has been on the school board for the last three years and is seeking re-election in 2022 for another four years.

Lori said she has received an incredible amount of support from community members, which has been critical to the success of the organization. “We want everyone to champion our organization because we’re stronger together, and together we’ll make our schools safe,” Lori said.

Running a nonprofit organization, advocating for legislation in various states and at the federal level, serving on the local school board, and being a wife and mom to two sons is quite the balancing act, but if anyone can do it, it’s Lori.

Keeping schools safe is Lori’s way to honor Alyssa, and that fuels her motivation to persevere. “It’s a lot of hard work,” Lori said. “But I’ve dedicated my life to this, and I’m just going to keep going.”

In addition to launching the nonprofit organization after the tragedy, Lori ran for the Broward County School Board and won. She has been on the school board for the last three years and is seeking re-election in 2022 for another four years.

Lori said she has received an incredible amount of support from community members, which has been critical to the success of the organization. “We want everyone to champion our organization because we’re stronger together, and together we’ll make our schools safe,” Lori said.

Running a nonprofit organization, advocating for legislation in various states and at the federal level, serving on the local school board, and being a wife and mom to two sons is quite the balancing act, but if anyone can do it, it’s Lori. Keeping schools safe is Lori’s way to honor Alyssa, and that fuels her motivation to persevere. “It’s a lot of hard work,” Lori said. “But I’ve dedicated my life to this, and I’m just going to keep going.”

Special thanks to Sigma Delta Tau for providing this article. Visit Sigma Delta Tau’s website to learn more about the organization.

Emma Austin

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