Districts required to install panic buttons inside schools

Posted at 4:17 PM, Feb 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-26 17:50:09-05

School districts statewide are up against a strict deadline to install silent panic buttons in every school by the start of the next school year, which is now required by law.

But there are new concerns over delays that districts might face in getting those systems up and working by August 1.

More than three years after the deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, a law created in the aftermath, Alyssa'a Law, will take effect during the 2021-22 school year.

It requires schools to install panic buttons that directly alert law enforcement agencies of emergencies.

"Minutes and seconds are critical in an emergency," said Tony Montalto, the president of Stand With Parkland. "Having these panic buttons will allow alerting of first responders sooner and hopefully allow them to get to the crisis as fast as they possibly can."

Montalto’s daughter, Gina, was among those killed in the Parkland school shooting.

One company that created Alyssa’s Law compliant technology is ASR Alert Systems, based in Jupiter,

"The goal here is to save time. Save lives by saving time," said company president Hector Delgado.

Delgado has already installed his patented technology in multiple schools in eight states, including Jupiter Christian School.

"I'm very passionate about it because I know we could do better," Delgado said.

The Florida Department of Education this month released its list of nine vendors that it intends to enter into an $8 million contract with to run the panic alarm systems statewide.

Districts can select which company to negotiate with.

"I just couldn’t believe our name wasn’t on that list," Delgado said.

Now, Delgado is among three companies protesting the state’s vendor list, a process that could pause contract negotiations potentially for weeks or longer.

That’s a concern for Montalto.

"I would think that because there is a challenge of integrating the system that we’d prefer not to have any delay," Montalto said.

Delgado said he wants to see why he wasn’t chosen and worries about losing contracts with his current clients if they miss out on state funding for using a non-state recommended provider.

"Do you feel like you’re throwing a wrench in the system and delaying it more than it needs to be?” WPTV journalist Meghan McRoberts asked.

"It's not something that I take pride in, or that I receive pleasure in, but I think the Department of Education has a history of making some horrible decisions," Delgado said.

The Department of Education said it can not comment on any open procurements.

"Just because you lose doesn’t mean you have the right to protest. If they truly can prove that something was amiss, then let’s get it up front and get it done because any delay delays the safety of our students and staff members at school and that’s not acceptable," Montalto said.

School districts in St. Lucie, Martin, and Indian River counties said they're already compliant with Alyssa's Law and are not concerned about potential negotiation delays.

WPTV is waiting to hear back from the School District of Palm Beach County.

The Okeechobee County School District said it has the list of vendors from the Office of Safe Schools and is looking at samples. A spokesperson said the school district will be in compliance by the August deadline.