It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly a year since autistic teen Avonte Oquendo went missing from his Long Island City school, launching an extensive citywide search which eventually ended with the discovery of his body on a beach in College Point, Queens in January 2014. The cause of death is still unknown. Since then, multiple kids who are very young or have special needs have managed to slip out of their schools unnoticed, creating a major PR problem for the city’s schools and sleepless nights for worried parents and families.
The city wants desperately to reverse the trend and took a major step toward doing that Thursday when the City Council unanimously passed what’s being called Avonte’s Law. The new law would require schools to attach alarms to all exits, hopefully preventing future tragedies.
Sponsored by Bed-Stuy councilman Robert Cornegy, the new bill requires the Department of Education to tackle the task of manning schools with the new alarms, reports DNAinfo. Mayor DeBlasio will most likely sign the bill into law when he returns from his trip to Italy.
Once passed, the DOE will have until May 30 to submit a comprehensive plan to the City Council for approval and alarms would be installed systemwide throughout Summer 2015—which means weathering another full school year without the alarms. Such is life in a massive bureaucracy.
The school year begins for all New York City public school students on September 4.
Follow Nikita Richardson on Twitter @nikitarbk