Turn to Tara: Inadequate safety protocols for disabled students

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There are new questions about the safety protocols in place to protect some of the most vulnerable students at a local college.

In a new Turn to Tara Investigation, News 12's Tara Rosenblum spoke to a SUNY Purchase student who fears for her life during emergency situations.

Sonya Rio-Glick has cerebral palsy and says that the school has not properly accounted for disabled students in times of need.

She described how a recent fire alarm went off a few months ago inside the Fort Awesome dorm. During the evacuation, Rio-Glick made her way to the outside hallway on the third floor, all while sirens were blaring.

"I was glad people were getting out but I was curious if someone was coming in the other direction to come get me," she says. Sonya says no one ever did.

The alarms turned out to be just a drill, but she claims that the same situation has kept happening over and over.

"There were 20 alarms over the course of almost three months in which disabled students did not know what was happening and could not get out. It was terrifying."

Rio-Glick says the response from the school has not been encouraging.

"I started asking questions of various administration officials…but I was just getting handed off to different people. I couldn't get answers."

She eventually staged a protest at the university library with other disabled students that led to a series of emails with school officials.

She wrote one last month that read in part, "Each day that goes by without an airtight, individualized plan in place, the safety of myself and others is at imminently risk. The most concerning part of the policy, among other issues, is that it only instructs students to call UPD, but does not ensure someone will come get me.”

SUNY Purchase’s evacuation procedure advises disabled students to head to the nearest stairwell in an emergency and call campus police.  There is no mention of who would come to the rescue and how long it would take.

Rio-Glick says her story has a happy ending.

“We got them to commit to creating a comprehensive plan that involves immediate evacuation for students with disabilities across the dorms and there will be special drills put in place," she says.

A SUNY spokesperson told News 12 that a special committee had been formed and that a revised policy to “better fit the community’s needs” would be in place in a few weeks.

News 12 has also learned there are students at other SUNY schools making similar complaints. News 12’s Tara Rosenblum put in requests for public records to investigate the complaints.

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