After teen with Down syndrome goes missing, local lawmakers draft bill for new alert system

When Kayla Durler, a 17-year-old girl with Down syndrome, went missing earlier this month, there was no way for officials to alert the public on a widespread level. Local lawmakers are trying to change that.

“It ended up being community members who found her because they had seen on the news that she was missing. But I wonder if folks would have found her more quickly if there was more widespread information about the fact she was missing,” said Representative Jessica Benham.

RELATED COVERAGE >> Petition calls for ‘Purple Alert System’ after teen with Down syndrome went missing in Pittsburgh

That’s why Benham is introducing a bill to create a purple alert system that will send out an alert from state police much like the silver or amber alerts. Except, the alert would be specific to missing people with disabilities.

“It’s us saying we care about people in our community who oftentimes are overlooked or are vulnerable and we want to make sure we have the tools to come together as a community when something like this happens,” Benham said.

She’s not alone, as a local senator is drafting the same bill in the hope of helping future families. But that’s not the only change Channel 11 learned is coming from this situation.

Sto-Rox released the following statement:

“Sto-Rox School District conducted an internal review immediately after the missing student was found and the district later met with all relevant county parties. The district has taken several steps, including the requirement that ABC Transit drivers wait for a Sto-Rox staff member to meet their vans and minibuses upon arrival at all buildings.”

While this policy is already in place for the middle school, this change is for the high school. Plus the district asked ABC Transit to make a better communication plan in alerting drivers to school closures.

At this point, the bill is still being drafted as the local representative and senator search for co-sponsors, but they both hope to introduce it and move it to a committee soon.

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