Push to install alarms on NYC school doors delayed

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Surveillance cameras at a Long Island City school show Avonte Oquendo, 14, bolting from the building in October 2014. Oquendo’s body was found on the banks of the East River three months later. His disappearance and death shined a light on autistic children’s safety at school.

(PIX11) – Parents are urging the City Council to hasten its review of a law that would require alarms on the exits of public schools aimed at preventing tragedies like the disappearance and death of Avonte Oquendo.

The New York Post reported Tuesday that the bill has the support of 46 of the council’s 51 members but it has been stalled in the Education Committee for two months.

Since Oquendo’s death, at least seven other young students have been found after walking out of their schools, The Post reports, citing Brooklyn Councilman Robert Cornegy, chief author of the door-alarm bill.

Cornegy said the Audible Alarms bill was inspired by the case of Symeir Talley-Jasper, a 4-year-old at William Floyd P.D. 59 who slipped out of school and walked home without a coat on a freezing day in January.

The bill would require door alarms to be installed in all public elementary and special education schools throughout the city, a task that some in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration fears may be a task too lofty to tackle.

“I don’t think the department is going to support that bill,” Deputy Schools Chancellor Kathleen Grimm said at a March 18 hearing on the mayor’s preliminary budget, according to the New York Post.

“We do not think it’s a prudent use of funds to do every single door. Children are going to walk out of our buildings unless we know we have totally trained adults in the building who know what the procedures are.”

De Blasio’s office told The Post it is reviewing the legislation.

The delay has outraged parents, who say the law could be a matter of life or death.

The Audible Alarms bill aims to prevent any students from skipping school without permission, but can be especially helpful to keep safe children on the autism spectrum.

Young students with autism can become overwhelmed by the sounds and noise at schools, leading them to wander as a way to escape the over-stimulation, according to experts.

That tendency, lawmakers said, highlights the importance of creating ways to sound life-saving alarms in case a student flees.

A tragic example of this lies on the case of Avonte Oquendo, a 14-year-old non-verbal boy who bolted from his Long Island City school last October. His remains were found in January along the banks of the East River.

Similar to the Audible Alarms legislation, Avonte’s Law was introduced earlier this year by Sen. Charles Schumer.

That proposal would let parents use tracking devices to monitor their children with autism in case they should flee caregivers or skip school.

Days after Schumber floated the law, the federal Department of Justice said it would allow existing funds that support a program to track seniors, to be used by police departments to give interested parents devices to track their children.

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