Parent Group Starts Petition to Put Alarms on School Exits

By Paul DeBenedetto on April 30, 2014 7:30am 

 Four-year-old Symeir Talley-Jasper, held in this photo by Public Advocate Letitia James, left his Bed-Stuy school unattended in January. Robert Cornegy, right, introduced a bill in the City Council to outfit school exits with an alarm system.
Four-year-old Symeir Talley-Jasper, held in this photo by Public Advocate Letitia James, left his Bed-Stuy school unattended in January. Robert Cornegy, right, introduced a bill in the City Council to outfit school exits with an alarm system.
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DNAinfo/Paul DeBenedetto

NEW YORK CITY — A citywide parents group started a petition calling on the city to pass a central Brooklyn councilman's bill to put alarms on public school exits.

The Change.org petition, started by the New York City Parents Union, demands the passage of the bill into law and features a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

"This safety issue must be addressed promptly, before the expansion of pre-kindergarten brings thousands of additional three and four year-olds into school buildings this fall," the letter says.

"I call on you, Mayor de Blasio, to put our children's safety first and make the 'Audible Alarms Bill' law."

The New York City Parents Union's petition had been signed by 216 supporters as of Wednesday morning.

The group also launched a website, getitdone4kids.org.

The bill, sponsored by Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights Councilman Robert Cornegy, would require all public schools with elementary or special needs students to install alarms on every exit but the front entrance, which is normally watched by a security guard.

Cornegy drafted the bill after a string of incidents in New York in which at least six children walked out of school buildings without staff knowledge, including autistic 14-year-old Avonte Oquendowho was later found dead — and Symeir Talley-Jasper, a pre-K student who left his Bed-Stuy school and walked home safely.

The bill is currently supported by 45 members of the city council, including education chair Daniel Dromm, but the Department of Education has concerns about the project's cost.

Supporters have called it an affordable solution. P.S. 59, Symeir's school, installed similar alarms at a cost of $139 per door, according to the Cornegy.

Cornegy said he launched the "audible alarms" idea after talking to the parents of Symeir, and appreciated the support of the parents who created the petition.

“Parents have been the driving force behind the Audible Alarms bill from the first day,” Cornegy said. “So it’s completely appropriate that parents are now organizing to demand this change.”

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