Avonte Oquendo was a special needs student who died in October 2013 because he wandered outside of school through a side door that had been left open. Although this was quite a sad event for all of New York, there is now a new law enacted to avert similar incidents in the future. Avonte’s law was officially put into effect on August 7, 2014 and because of it, all but 34 schools in New York City will receive alarms so that students cannot leave undetected. Alarms must be installed on doors that do not have a guard which is why they are generally installed on the back/side doors and not on the main doors of school buildings. The installation of all 21,000 alarms in New York City cost approximately $5.55 million.
As a results, our back door is now armed with a newly installed alarm that will go off if anyone leaves. This alarm will alert faculty members that someone has left the building, and staff will be able to run outside and retrieve the student. BSGE’s custodian Darnell says, “It’s a great idea and I’m all for it. After what happened to Avonte, it is a necessity to prevent events like that from happening again in the future.”
In addition to door alarms, the law will also provide voluntary tracking devices for children who have similar conditions and tendencies to run. This would be expanding a program that currently helps track people with Alzheimer’s disease. Almost 50% of teens and children with autism have tried to run away or have strayed from their caretakers, which is why having tracking devices would be extremely useful in case of emergency. Statistics show that most kids who were lost and wearing a device were found within about 30 minutes. It has a fairly low cost and could mean the difference between life and death of a child. Both the installation of the alarms and the voluntary tracking devices will hopefully be effective tools in the future to prevent any more incidents.