The Department of Education said Thursday it does not support a bill requiring certain schools to install alarms on its doors, even as Avonte Oquendo's grandmother pleaded for change. Credit: Bess Adler/Metro
The de Blasio administration does not support a City Council bill to require elementary and special education schools to install alarms on its doors, even as Avonte Oquendo's grandmother pleaded for change.
Doris McCoy told Council members on Thursday that schools need to overhaul how they take care of special needs children, and that alarms are a key part of the equation.
"Cameras and alarms should be on at all times," McCoy said. "Before locking down the school, look at the camera to see if the kid went out the door, because they spent so much time locking down, looking — if it was sooner, they would have gotten Avonte."
In 2013, Oquendo went missing after he stepped out of his Queens school when a door was left ajar. The autistic 14-year-old's remains were later in the East River in January after a lengthy citywide search, promoting calls for new tools to keep children safe.
However, representatives from the Department of Education said it would cost $9 million to install alarms in the schools. Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm said the agency supports the goals but that it imposes to severe of a mandate.
Alarms might also negatively affect other students with autism, she added, and that students as well as staff might accidentally set off alarms in non-emergency situations.
"For a large and diverse school system such as ours there is no one-size-fits-all response that will prevent a student leaving a building without permission," Grimm said, asking for discretion to work with individual schools and communities.
McCoy was unconvinced and vowed to further pursue the matter.
"I think they held off too long," McCoy said after the hearing. "Way before this happened to Avonte, it should have been done."