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City Schools See Uptick in Complaints of Unsupervised Students, Report Says

By Gwynne Hogan | May 13, 2015 5:19pm
 This year at least 69 students have wandered off school property, a report released Tuesday says.
This year at least 69 students have wandered off school property, a report released Tuesday says.
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CIVIC CENTER — More city  students have disappeared from their schools, wandered away during field trips and even been abandoned by chaperones this year than over the same time last year, according to report released Tuesday.

The report from the Special Commissioner of Investigation for New York City Schools showed that in the first four months of 2015, the office has received 142 complaints of unsupervised children, compared to 78 during the same period last year. At least 69 students left school property so far this year.

In all of 2013 the SCI recieved 159 complaints of unsupervised children and 165 for students who had left school grounds. Last year there were 279 and 160 students, respectively.

The report told stories of children left unsupervised, like an emotionally disturbed special needs 12-year-old who disappeared from her school and appeared hours later at a former school having taken the subway, and a kindergartener who was abandoned by her chaperones at a Chuck E. Cheese’s during a school field trip.

The uptick in reporting comes in the wake of the tragic disappearance and death of special needs student Avonte Oquendo in October 2013.

Greater security measures and increased supervision must be exercised to protect these students, the report said. 

One of the most vulnerable times occurs during dismissal, when the SCI has recorded numerous cases of students being put on the wrong bus, dismissed to the wrong adult, or simply lost in the shuffle, according to the report sent to schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

The SCI recommend increased training for School Safety Division staff at each school, and assigning more school staffers to patrol hallways and dismissal to better keep track of students.

“We are taking aggressive actions to ensure all students are in safe learning environments," Fariña said in response to the report. "In partnership with the City Council we have completed a survey of every school building and have begun the process of installing door alarms, which by next year will be operating in virtually every school building."

By the end of 2015, there should be more than 21,000 alarms installed in more than 1,200 school buildings, the DOE said.

"This is part of our vigilant effort to make sure we provide safe, supportive and challenging learning environments for every student,” Fariña said.