City schools to get door alarms

By Tom Momberg

The city’s Department of Education is currently installing alarms on about 50 school doors a week with the goal of having 21,000 armed in more than 1,200 of its buildings by the end of the calendar year.

The $5.55 million DOE security measures come as a result of a system-wide survey to evaluate the need for additional safety equipment like door alarms.

That study, concluded in a formal report before the City Council, was the first annual report required by Avonte’s Law, or Local Law 36, that the Council passed in July 2014 in response to a student’s death.

The bill was introduced by Councilman Robert Cornegy (D-Brooklyn) after Avonte Oquendo, a 14-year-old boy with autism, was found dead on the College Point shore a couple of months after he ran out of an unguarded school door in Long Island City.

Cornegy and Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) held a press conference on the steps of City Hall last week to announce the details of the report, which identified a request for door alarms at about 97 percent of city schools.

“This new report gives us concrete data on where we need to place door alarms in our public schools,” Dromm, the Council’s education committee chairman, said in a statement. “Avonte Oquendo tragically left his school without anyone knowing. This report aims to prevent that tragedy from ever happening again.”

The DOE prioritized alarm installation for elementary schools and schools that serve children with special needs. The alarms will enhance the Missing Student Protocol, according to the DOE, requiring that 9-1-1 be called immediately when a student is identified as missing.

Once an alarm rings, school officials would activate their Building Response Team to coordinate with school safety agents, local law enforcement and the borough safety director, and to detail the incident in the Online Occurrence Reporting Systems, the DOE said.

The DOE said it would also administer special training to staff and security officers at schools in response to the report, especially at those schools which serve students with special needs.

Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomberg@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.