Effort to Make School Doors Safe and Loud
In Brooklyn, there is a stealthy spike in the number of special needs elementary students walking out of school, unbeknownst to school officials.
Since January of this year, 4 children – all under the age of 5 – have “slipped” or “wandered” or “walked out” of their schools unnoticed. A couple of them did so in the snow during chilling weather.
New York City Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr. wants to make certain that these District 75 schools sound the alarm when a student tries to leave before school ends.
“I am a father of six children, including 6 year-old twins, said Cornegy. “It makes me shudder to think of them in the streets on their own. This safety issue must be addressed promptly, before the expansion of pre-kindergarten brings thousands of additional 3 and 4 year olds into school buildings this fall.”
But, to address this safety issue promptly, first schools need to equip with an alarm before they can sound it.
That was the focus of Cornegy’s press conference and rally yesterday. While on the steps of City Hall Cornegy announced his plan to mandate that all New York City elementary public schools who cater to special needs children be equipped with audible alarms.
It’s an idea he’s penned into City Hall as Intro. 0131-2014, also dubbed the Audible Alarms bill.
The idea is similar to that of US Senator Chuck Schumer’s bill dubbed Avonte’s Law that uses law enforcement money to provide GPS tracking devices to families with vulnerable children.
Cornegy introduced this in March. Since then its gotten the support of nearly every City Council member and Public Advocate Letitia James.
Regina Castro, a District 75 parent and NYC Parents Union Member said, “I am in total agreement with the Audible Alarms Bill that will ensure what happened to Avonte Oquendo, will never happen again, and to ensure the safety of all our children while in school. I would like to thank Councilmember Robert Cornegy for spearheading this bill to protect our children.”
While the actual text of the bill is legalese that considers a district 75 program to “mean any educational, vocational, or behavioral support program under the authority of the department for students who are on the autism spectrum, or have significant cognitive delays, emotional challenges, sensory impairments, or multiple disabilities” and restricts the mandate to schools from pre-kindergarten through grade 5, the specifics of bill is simple.
If passed, the bill will take 90 days to enact. Then it will be a municipal law that amends the New York City charter, in relation to requiring the DOE to equip all exit doors with an alarm system in all elementary school buildings and buildings accommodating district 75 programs.
Allaying cost concerns, Cornegy’s Legislative and Communications Director Dynishal P. Gross told folks in Bed-Stuy during a community board meeting that the mandate would not place a heavy burden on schools as each alarm should be relatively about $150.