Mother Of Parkland Victim Wins School Board Seat: 'I Won't Stop' Until Kids Are Safe Lori Alhadeff's mission is to make all U.S. schools safe, starting with Broward County, Fla. After her daughter was killed in February's mass shooting, politics has become her vehicle for change.
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Mother Of Parkland Victim Wins School Board Seat: 'I Won't Stop' Until Kids Are Safe

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Mother Of Parkland Victim Wins School Board Seat: 'I Won't Stop' Until Kids Are Safe

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Ordinarily, we wouldn't be bringing you news of a local school board election, but this one has special resonance. This past Tuesday, Lori Alhadeff of Parkland, Fla., was elected to the Broward County School Board. Her 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, was one of the students shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School earlier this year. And that is what motivated Lori Alhadeff to run. She told me about one of her last memories of her daughter from the day before the February 14 massacre.

LORI ALHADEFF: She played her last soccer game, actually, on February 13, that night. And when she got into the car, I told Alyssa - I turned to her, and I said, listen. You know, you played the best game of your life. And she was like yeah, I know, mom.

BLOCK: So she could tell that that was a high point for her.

ALHADEFF: Well, you know, and reflecting back on it, it was - she actually really did play the best game of her life - and being her last soccer game of her life was incredible.

BLOCK: It wasn't long after Lori Alhadeff buried her daughter that she decided to run for office.

ALHADEFF: It became very clear to me that I needed to have a seat at table, to have a voice, to have a vote, to make change happen. And they sort of nominated me on social media to run for school board. I was like, you know what? I can do this. And I used to be a health and physical education teacher before I was a stay-at-home mom. So I knew that I could be an advocate for change, an advocate for school safety.

BLOCK: What are some of those points of school safety that you would want to change, that you will advocate for on the board?

ALHADEFF: Sure. So I - when I talk about school safety, it's layers and layers of protection. So the first layer of protection is school safety starts at home and communicating to parents how they need to be alert to their children - what's going on in their social media, looking at their phones, knowing their passwords and checking their bags. And then we need school hardening. So every school needs to have a single-point entry. And we need to have an armed law enforcement or a guardian at each school. We could have a metal detector there. And if we're not going to do metal detectors, we can have metal detector wands checking kids' bags. We've had, you know, so many school shootings. And we need to start regulating and making standard school-safety guidelines.

BLOCK: There's been a lot of talk about arming teachers, not just security guards. How do you feel about that?

ALHADEFF: I don't think that we should arm our teachers. Our teachers are qualified to teach our students. We need to give them more paper, pens, resources for their classrooms. But absolutely, we should not be giving them a gun.

BLOCK: I think a lot of people may remember really powerful footage of you very soon after the shooting in February in which you directly address President Trump with a very urgent plea. Do you feel like that was listened to? Do you feel like that has given you any response that you're satisfied with?

ALHADEFF: Well, I think that the people and the public listened to me. And they agreed with me and felt my pain and agree that there needs to be change. However, President Trump - I don't think he listened to me. And I would be happy to sit down and talk to him about it.

BLOCK: I gather that you used to be a Republican. Am I right about that?

ALHADEFF: Correct.

BLOCK: And that you switched and ran as a Democrat. Why did you switch?

ALHADEFF: Sure. I switched to become a Democrat because I feel that the Democratic Party better aligns with banning the assault weapon rifle.

BLOCK: Was it an easy decision for you to make? What was going through your mind when you made that switch?

ALHADEFF: No, it was definitely - it was easy decision for me to make. You know, before this, I wasn't really a very political person. As far as the guns go, you know - I don't try to talk too much about because I know becomes too polarizing. We have, you know, people that go to the right, and people go to left, and they forget about making schools safe. Listen. I believe in the Second Amendment. I believe in the right for people to bear arms. But I think that we can come to common ground to make responsible laws and decisions in how we can make our society safer.

BLOCK: You have two sons who are also in the Broward County School System. What have you talked about with them as they've headed back to school this year?

ALHADEFF: Sure. So I've had some tough conversations with them. I bought them a ballistic-resistant backpack.

BLOCK: Really?

ALHADEFF: And I've taught them how to use that bag to protect their face and their vital organs in front of their body. I've also gone through code red drills with them, explaining them to know where to go in the classroom and that if a threat comes to them that they have to fight for their life.

BLOCK: How old are your boys?

ALHADEFF: Thirteen and 11.

BLOCK: I wonder, Ms. Alhadeff, if there's part of you that just wants to give yourself a break. I mean, obviously, on the school board, you can be an advocate, and you can take all these issues on. I just wonder whether there's part of you that just wants to not have to do that, to not be in that position.

ALHADEFF: No, I don't feel that way at all. I want to be a voice of change. And I've been fighting since February 14 to make change happen. And I won't stop.

BLOCK: That's Lori Alhadeff. Her daughter, Alyssa, was one of the 17 people killed in the Parkland school shooting in February. This past week, she was elected to the Broward County School Board. Ms. Alhadeff, thanks so much for talking with us.

ALHADEFF: Thank you.

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