Parents of children and educators killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High gathered in front of the school Monday afternoon to beseech Florida legislators to pass “common sense” laws to make schools safer, including more mental health resources and funding for more secure schools.
“We are many of the families of the amazing children and teachers murdered in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentines Day,” said Ryan Petty, whose 14-year-old daughter, Alaina, was killed. “Today we have gathered to support passage of legislation aimed at improving safety of children and teachers in our schools.”
The appeal came as Tallahassee lawmakers debated the state’s response to Florida’s worst-ever school shooting. The debate, which has initially zeroed in on arming some educators, is playing out in the final week of the legislative session.
With a backdrop of flowers, balloons, candles, pictures and other mementos on the ever-growing memorial in front on the school, Petty read a statement declaring that the parents are unified in pushing for safer schools. Standing next to him were the parents of other teens killed in the massacre, including Lori and Ilan Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was killed; Max Schachter, whose son Alex died; and Fred Guttenberg, who lost his daughter Jaime.
“Our message is simple, we must be the last families to lose a loved one to mass murder in a school,” Petty said. “This time must be different and we demand action.”
Petty said the parents want the Legislature to take immediate action, ticking off these priorities: Number one, enhance the safety and security at schools. Number two, keep guns away from those who pose a risk to themselves or others, and number three, improve access to mental health resources for at-risk youths.
He said these are measures that Gov. Rick Scott has advocated since the mass shooting and that were included in proposed legislation.
Students who survived the rampage that left 14 students and three adults dead have staunchly advocated that lawmakers at the state and national level take decisive action. In full-throated fashion, including during a town hall sponsored by CNN, they have pushed a range of ideas, from raising to 21 from 18 the legal age for purchasing a semiautomatic rifle like the one used by shooter Nikolas Cruz to banning the guns outright.
They have traveled to both Tallahassee and Washington D.C. to lobby lawmakers and President Donald Trump.
The president seemed sympathetic to their cause during the meeting with student survivors and parents of those who died.
Petty said they called Monday’s news conference to “implore our state leaders and specifically the Florida Legislature to demonstrate the ability to take action.” He also wanted leaders to know the parents are organized, unified and willing to fight for school safety.
The Alhadeffs, clutching a photo of their smiling daughter, choked back tears as they begged for reform.
“We need to start making our schools safe again,” said Lori Alhadeff. Ilan Alhadeff described life without his daughter.
“Our daughter was our life,” he said. “Part of us died that day.”
Guttenberg, wearing an orange ribbon in honor of his daughter Jaime, who loved the color, said the idea of arming educators does not appeal to him personally.
“I do not believe that that is a solution,” he said.
“We need to get something passed that immediately addresses safety in the schools,” Guttenberg said of the three-point proposal advocated by the group. “We know in the state of Florida this is what we can get passed.”