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Queens Chronicle

Avonte's Law passes NYC Council unanimously

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Posted: Friday, July 25, 2014 3:40 pm | Updated: 11:53 am, Thu Aug 7, 2014.

A bill that could reduce the number of young students from running out of school buildings unattended was approved by the City Council on Thursday without a single voice of descent.

Avonte’s Law, introduced by Councilman Robert Cornegy (D-Brooklyn) requires the Department of Education to evaluate where door alarms necessary. The agency has until May 30 of next year to produce a final list of schools.

The original bill differed slightly as Cornegy wanted all buildings with elementary school and special education students to install door alarms. The Council’s Education Committee amended the legislation after considering the concerns DOE and UFT representatives expressed at a public hearing.

Cornegy also wanted implementation to begin this summer and be completed in the fall, but under the approved bill the councilman said all approved schools should have the alarms installed by 2015.

Though he didn’t get everything he wanted, Cornegy was praised for his drive and perseverance by almost all Council members.

“I watched in awe as Councilman Cornegy put together this bill,” Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) said. “From as soon as this tragedy started, my colleague was working to make our schools safer.”

The bill is named in honor of Avonte Oquendo, the 14-year-old autistic boy who ran out of the Riverview School in Long Island City in October. As a result, a massive citywide search took place for months until the teenager’s remains were found washed ashore in College Point.

Cornegy also cites another incident, in which pre-K student Symeir Talley-Jasper walked out of her school in Brooklyn, as inspiration for the legislation.

“This was a common sense idea to make our schools safer,” Councilman David Green (D-Brooklyn) said. “And to the Oquendo family, I know this doesn’t make everything better but I hope you will take a small measure of comfort knowing we will do all we can to make sure something like this never happens again.”

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