2016-05-04 / Editorials

Prevent Another Tragedy

While we recognize the need for individual freedom, we agree with U.S. Senator Charles Schumer’s proposal to have those at risk provided with tracking devices, in case of emergency, as a powerful way to avoid the worst of tragedies. It has been two and a half years since Avonte Oquendo wandered out of an unguarded exit at his school and somehow ended up in the river, where his remains were found months later. There was a massive search with hundreds of volunteers and an outpouring of prayers for his safe return, and it broke everyone’s hearts when his body was finally found. Recently there was another case of a boy in Brooklyn who ran off from his program and jumped into the water in Coney Island, who, by the grace of God, was found in time and saved, thanks to a woman who happened to notice something amiss and called 911. The door at his program, which was not an official school program, even had an alarm, according to reports.

Schumer, who is continuing to push for this legislation, is joined by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa in introducing the bipartisan bill, and it is co-sponsored by Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina. The bill, which will also reauthorize an expired bill that provided tracking devices for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, just passed the Senate Judiciary Committee with the bipartisan vote and the next step is on the Senate floor. It is called Kevin and Avonte’s Law. Kevin Curtis Wills also had autism and died at age nine after he wandered off and drowned in Iowa’s Raccoon River in 2008.

The legislation would create federal funding for a voluntary program to help police locate missing autistic children using GPS tracking devices that could be worn as a wristband or sewn into their clothing.

“This technology will allow parents of all children with autism, no matter their means, to use the benefits of a high-tech solution to an age-old problem,” said Schumer.

According to a recent national survey, a third of children with autism had wandered away within the past year and that settles it for us – we need more effective approaches. Door alarms and security help, but they have been shown to be insufficient. We support Schumer’s bill wholeheartedly. We believe that if there was anything we could do to prevent another tragedy like the aforementioned, we would have no excuse not to do it.

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