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Council Unanimously Approves School Safety Bill Named for Avonte Oquendo

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TWC News: Council Unanimously Approves School Safety Bill Named for Avonte Oquendo
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The City Council passed a bill it claims will help make students safer and more secure. However, it doesn't go as far as some lawmakers had originally hoped. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Avonte Oquendo's family sat in the front row, as the City Council voted on the law named after their son and grandson.

It passed unanimously.

"Forty-eight in the affirmative. Zero in the negative," said Public Advocate Leticia James.

Avonte was a 14-year-old boy with autism who ran out of his Long Island City school last October and whose remains were discovered in the East River in January, after a months-long citywide search.

Council Member Robert Cornegy introduced the bill after eight children walked out of their schools since Avonte's disappearance.

"Then there were more children, from Brooklyn to the Bronx. Their principals were horrified and their parents were panicked," Cornegy said.

The bill won't result in any major policy changes, however.

"We're asking the [Department of Education] to thoroughly examine the need for security measures that will prevent unauthorized departures from school premises by students," said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

What Cornegy really wanted was to require the Department of Education to install audible door alarms in every elementary school and every building that serves students with serious disabilities.

During a hearing last month, though, it became clear that both the DOE and teachers union were opposed to a mandate and in the end, the City Council doesn't actually have the power to require the DOE take action.

The bill requires the DOE to release a list of which schools it has decided to install audible alarms in. It also requires the DOE report, annually, on the safety and security training provided to faculty and staff.

Avonte's uncle and his first cousin, who also has autism, still say it's a victory.

"I'm excited about it. It's a minor step in the right direction because this is only the first, beginning stages of this bill. So I'm happy about any kind of progress," said his uncle.

They say they hope for more reform in Avonte's name in the future. ClientIP: UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP