August 7, 2014
NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio today signed legislation into law in relation to door alarms on public school buildings. The legislation was introduced in response to the Avonte Oquendo tragedy, in which a 14-year-old autistic boy left school undetected.
Introductory 131-A, also known as ‘Avonte’s Law,’ requires the Department of Education to evaluate the need for door alarms on exterior doors at elementary schools and District 75 schools serving students with special needs. By May 30, 2015, DOE must have completed the evaluation of all schools and must submit a report to the Council describing the results of the evaluation, including a list of the schools where door alarms have been deemed appropriate and the timeline for installation. By May 30, 2015 and annually thereafter, DOE must also submit a report regarding training on student safety protocols for DOE personnel. The bill was approved by the City Council at the stated meeting on July 24.
“Every parent in this city felt the urgency and fear as we searched week after week for Avonte. Every one of us felt the pain of his loss. And every one of us is committed to making sure our schools have the tools they need to keep our children safe. This legislation will protect other children from tragedy,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I applaud the City Council, led by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Council Member Robert Cornegy and Chair of the Education Committee Council Member Daniel Dromm for their tireless efforts to protect our students and make our schools as safe as they can be.”
“The safety of our students comes first, and as a mother and grandmother, my heart hurts for Avonte’s family. We have a steadfast commitment to providing a safe and supportive learning environment for all children in all of our schools, and today’s legislation underscores how closely we are working with the City Council, teachers, administrators, law enforcement, parents and students to ensure our students are safe. Today’s legislation is another crucial step to make sure every one of our students is able to thrive in a safe and supportive learning environment,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.
“This is a bill that will make our educational facilities safer for students and give parents the peace of mind they deserve when they send their children to school for the day,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “I appreciate Council Member Robert Cornegy’s leadership and the Oquendo family’s support in getting this important measure passed so we can begin the process of making all of our schools as safe as possible.”
“Children with disabilities need and deserve the highest level of protection and care that we can provide. I believe that through this measure, meant to ensure that schools remain safe environments for all, we can honor the memory of Avonte Oquendo, and provide a voice for all public school children. I thank Council Member Robert Cornegy for his amazingly leadership on this issue, and I thank Mayor de Blasio for signing this bill into law today,” said Public Advocate Letitia James.
“The passage of Avonte’s law will give principals more options to better ensure the safety of their students,” said City Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm. “The legislation requires the DOE to report on schools that need alarms the most and then to make a decision about where to place those alarms.”
“Just like our students in summer school, the City Council has been hard at work this summer, passing Avonte’s Law to improve the safety of our public school buildings. With the Mayor’s signature today, the bill goes into effect and the process of evaluating buildings throughout the system can begin. This is the right way to respond to the tragedy of Avonte’s loss—with action, to mitigate the risk of unalarmed doors for all children, whether they have special needs or are merely precocious and unaware of the risks they might face if they slip out a school door. Like parents all over New York City, I’m excited for the start of the 2014-2015 school year, and the full implementation of this new law,” said Council Member Robert Cornegy.