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NYC DOE To Announce New School Safety Measures

Move Comes In Wake Of Autistic Teen's Disappearance

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Six weeks after a 14-year-old autistic boy walked out of his school in Queens and disappeared, the city’s Department of Education is set to announce new school security measures.

Avonte Oquendo, who cannot communicate verbally, was last seen on surveillance video leaving the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City on Oct. 4.

The boy’s family hasn’t completely lost hope, but the search has been scaled back. A 24/7 command post that had been set up near the school and staffed with volunteers is now gone.

“It’s tough. It’s just a tough situation right now, but we’re hoping for the best,” Avonte’s father Daniel Oquendo said last month.

Surveillance cameras show a school safety officer was the last person to see Avonte before he disappeared.

Police said the officer told Avonte to go back upstairs to his classroom, but instead the boy left the school through a side door.

“The last clear video we have is him leaving the school by the side door, walking north, crossing the street and going into a park,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said earlier this month.

Authorities said the officer did nothing wrong, but six weeks after the incident, the DOE is reviewing school safety protocols, CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reported.

Building response teams have already been put through enhanced training. The same is expected for special education paraprofessionals.

There are also plans to review how two-way radios, surveillance cameras, PA systems and possible panic buttons could be put to use.

Alongside the NYPD, the DOE will provide extra training for school safety agents to deal with an estimated 100,000 special needs students in city schools.

Other school districts around the state have already made some changes.

In Yonkers, the police department is giving out free DNA kits for parents to complete at home with their children. Parents keep the kits at home to be handed to police in the event of a worst-case-scenario.

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

Anyone with information is asked to contact NYPD Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS, visit the Crime Stoppers website or text tips to 274637 (CRIMES) and enter TIP577.

A Facebook page called Bring Avonte Home has also been set up to share information and coordinate search efforts. The reward for his safe return is up to $95,000.

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