DOE Chief Vows to Boost Safety Measures After Autistic Teen's Disappearance

By Jeanmarie Evelly on November 15, 2013 10:17am 

 The Department of Education is planning to ramp up its school safety measures in response to the disappearance of special needs student Avonte Oquendo, who went missing from his Queens school Oct. 4.
The Department of Education is planning to ramp up its school safety measures in response to the disappearance of special needs student Avonte Oquendo, who went missing from his Queens school Oct. 4.
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NYPD

LONG ISLAND CITY — The Department of Education is planning to ramp up its school safety measures in response to the disappearance of autistic teen Avonte Oquendo, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said Thursday.

Among the measures being considered are two-way radios, panic buttons, surveillance and additional training for staffers.

"We're going to do a comprehensive review," Walcott said on "The John Gambling Show" Thursday afternoon.

"I informed our principals that we have a number of procedures that we’re going to be putting in place, and to address issues specific to our District 75 students, our special needs students," he said.

The move comes as the city's Special Commissioner for Investigation probes the circumstances surrounding Avonte's disappearance.

Avonte, who is autistic and cannot speak, has been missing since Oct. 4, when he walked out of The Riverview School, a special needs high school housed in a newly constructed building in Long Island City.

Walcott said the DOE is planning to "review and utilize" a number of different security measures at its new school buildings, including two-way radios, video surveillance, public address systems and panic buttons.

The DOE will also provide extra safety and emergency response training for District 75 staff members and school safety agents, the chancellor said.

"Safety to me is the most important thing," Walcott said. "We have a very rigorous protocol that we’re putting in place and building on top of the safety measures already in place."

The missing teen's family filed a notice of claim last month, the first step in filing a lawsuit against the city. Their attorney, David Perecman, told DNAinfo previously that the school failed to properly supervise Avonte, who was last seen on video surveillance footage exiting the school building through a side door.

Avonte was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers. He is 5-foot-3 and weighs 125 pounds.

Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS. The public can also submit tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website at www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting their tips to 274637(CRIMES), then entering TIP577.

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