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Mayor Says School Staff, Not City Policy, to Blame for Girl Leaving School Undetected

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TWC News: Mayor Says School Staff, Not City Policy, to Blame for Girl Leaving School Undetected
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An independent investigator is looking into how Nashaly Perez was able to leave her school undetected, but the mayor says the problem was with the school's staff, not the city's policies. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

In the year since Avonte Oquendo ran out of his school and died, there have been many calls for "never again."

Never again should a student with special needs leave a school building unattended. Never again should school officials wait before calling the police and parents. Never again should a family learn the school system lost a vulnerable child they'd entrusted in its care.

"It's the law to send our children to school. It's the law for you to protect our children. It's the law for you to send our children back home to us. Because if we have to send them to you, we want them back," said Mary Jasper, the grandmother of a child who left his school.

Avonte's death demanded reform, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

"It was a moment that crystallized for all of us, especially those of us who are parents, but really for all of us, the need to do something to additionally protect our children," de Blasio said on August 7.

On Monday, though, it happened again. A 15-year old with serious special needs disappeared from her school.

The city reacted immediately, removing the principal of P.S. 371 as the New York City Police Department searched for the child. Luckily, Nashaly Perez was found Thursday and reunited with her family.

"It's not acceptable that this happened," de Blasio said. "And I want to be very clear that anybody who works for me, and that means everyone at the DOE, is going to be held to a very high standard. And if this happens, anyone who had responsibility is going to feel some consequences."

The de Blasio administration, along with the teachers' union, had opposed the idea of requiring door alarms at all schools like P.S. 371 that serve students with serious special needs, as City Councilman Robert Cornegy had wanted. Ultimately, the Council passed a bill called Avonte's Law that merely requires the city to consider whether to install the alarms at each school.

The mayor said he still stands by the policy.

"This strikes me as human error," he said. "This does not strike me as an equipment problem. This does not strike me as the problem with lack of alarms. This strikes me as people not doing their job."

As of Thursday, the teachers and school aide charged with caring for Perez continued to work in the school.

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