Six weeks after a mute child with autism walked out of his school without anyone stopping him, News 4's I-Team investigated security at 10 New York City schools and found alarming holes -- our reporter was able to walk into seven of the schools without being stopped or asked for identification. Jonathan Vigliotti reports (Published Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013)
Six weeks after a mute child with autism walked out of his school without anyone stopping him, News 4's I-Team investigated security at 10 New York City schools and found alarming holes -- our reporter was able to walk into seven of the schools without being stopped or asked for identification.
In some cases, the I-Team had full access to classrooms, cafeterias and multiple areas of the buildings, which included elementary schools.
At PS 35 in Manhattan, the I-Team entered at 8 a.m. through a side door a few yards from the school's main entrance that was guarded by police. At the Information Technology High School in Queens, a security officer at the front door was chatting and didn't notice the I-Team walking in, or even circling him. The officer paid no attention and walked away to answer his cell phone.
At Brooklyn Prep High School, a guard was surprised after our reporter walked in and later approached him.
"Wow, I thought you were a sub," the guard said.
At John D. Wells Junior High in Brooklyn and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis High School in Manhattan, our reporter said hello to teachers in the hallways. At Midtown West, he walked in the door right behind elementary students.
And at the Riverview School, where 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo was last seen
before he vanished on Oct. 4, our reporter was also easily able to walk past security, and went to every floor in the school.
"Are you visiting?" the guard asked afterward.
Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott watched the I-Team's video and said the Department of Education needed to work with the NYPD to review security.
"Any school, whether it's one school or seven schools getting into, is just one too many," Walcott said.
He said parents should feel comforted that pupils in the nation's largest school system, which has 1,274 buildings, are safer now than they have ever been.
The other three schools that were examined as part of the investigation -- PS 78 in Queens, PS 17 in Brooklyn and Lower East Side Prep in Manhattan -- all stopped the I-Team at the door.
The NYPD said "any allegation that involves a breach of security will be investigated."
The Department of Education said last week that it was reviewing its procedures after Avonte's disappearance. The family's lawyer has said the school knew the teen had a history of running away, and did not properly supervise him.
The boy has not been found.
His mother told NBC 4 New York on Tuesday that the investigation's findings were "very disturbing, how a stranger can walk in and out of these schools and no one is stopping or asking a question."
"Doors are open like they just don't care," she added. "Another kid could be lost, or they could just vanish just like my son did."
Published at 11:09 PM EST on Nov 18, 2013