NYC Schools to Install 21K Audible Door Alarms

New York City education officials will install 21,000 audible door alarms at schools throughout the city to help prevent students from leaving school grounds.

NEW YORK – Officials plan to install 21,000 audible door alarms at public schools in New York City to prevent students from disappearing from campuses.

The decision follows a 2013 incident when 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo, who was autistic and unable to speak, walked away from his Queens school and was found dead in a river months later.

A March 2014 report released by the special commissioner of investigation for city schools described how the teen was able to wander off the school’s campus. A school safety agent informed authorities that she saw Oquendo in the lobby, but was unaware that he was a special-needs student. She said she called out to the student twice; however, he did not respond. The agent was unable to chase after the student because she could not leave the front desk with no one to monitor it, the Associated Press reports.

City Council members passed a bill known as Avonte’s Law last year, in response to the teen’s death and a handful of incidents involving students disappearing from schools. The rule requires the Department of Education to inspect all schools in the 1.1 million-student public school system to evaluate the need for additional safety equipment, including audible alarms.

Roughly 97 percent of schools surveyed requested door alarms. The remaining 3 percent already had alarms or are in buildings already equipped with security systems.

The alarms will be installed in all schools by the end of 2015, according to education officials.

Additionally, school staff members will receive additional training on managing students during transitional periods, such as lunchtime, when pupils can slip out unnoticed.

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