Avonte Oquendo’s Family Plans To Hit City Of New York With A Wrongful Death Lawsuit

January 23, 2014  |  

Source: NYDN

When news broke yesterday that the dismembered remains found in Queens last week belonged to Avonte Oquendo, the 14-year-old autistic teen who went missing back in October, a great wave of sadness came over quite a few people. After months of seeing posters all around the train stations I walked in, to know this young man didn’t make it made me extraordinarily sad for his family. And as they mourn the death of their child, they also want answers, specifically from the city of New York, and Oquendo’s school, Center Boulevard School in Queens, where he was last seen.

Oquendo’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, just filed court papers today, asking the city to hand over their private internal report on how her son was able to walk out of the Center Boulevard School without anyone noticing. The city previously rejected her request in the past, as those behind the private files said it wasn’t “relevant” to the police search and said handing over that info could interfere with police investigations. Fontaine’s lawyer, David Perecman, wants the city to overturn their previous decision and seeks to use the information to help the family file what the New York Daily News says will be a $25 million dollar wrongful death lawsuit. According to the Daily News:

Perecman said that the family knows from press reports and limited data released by city officials that there was a delay by school officials of 45 minutes to an hour before the NYPD was notified of the boy’s disappearance.

The family has said that Oquendo was not supervised properly, despite the school knowing that the child had a history of wandering away during transitions, which is why he was able to run out of the school without anyone noticing.  A teacher’s aide noticed too late that Oquendo was missing from class on October 4 after lunch around 12:40, but it wasn’t until 2:30 that surveillance footage was able to be looked at to see where he might have gone according to the Business Insider. Perecman says that confusion in trying to obtain access codes from the School Security Division held things up too.

And after waiting 45 minutes to call the police, they also waited an hour to call Fontaine. With all these things in mind, the family would have a pretty strong case.

Whether or not the family files a suit against the city, this is just a terribly sad series of events. And while a lawsuit won’t bring Oquendo back, it will hopefully help to keep something like this from happening again.

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  • Liya

    Grateful for my private school!!

    Maybe they should have enrolled him a school that is equipped to handle special need children. Sorry, but a regular public school, like NY, isn’t going to have a dedicated staff to address those needs. They’re worried about the weapons, assaults, gang members that are attending class!

    School is a not daycare for your children! Teachers aren’t babysitters or guardians. They are there to teach, not take care of children..that’s the parents responsibility

  • Moira

    I think my focus would be more on who killed my child and dismembered him. It seems like some camera in NY would have captured the boy at some point. Someone had to notice a mentally challenged boy on the streets.

    They’re going straight for the money..shameful

  • Sarah

    My heart breaks for the family of this little boy. I hope they find the answers that they seek. However, I think people need to start thinking about the policies that ignorant politicians are making regarding education. Class sizes are growing, and many special education children are being put into the general ed classroom. In a 4th grade classroom, I have 25 children. A handful have special needs; I do not have an aide in the classroom at all. The ratio of students to teachers is growing every year. Schools are being underfunded purposely by particular groups of politicians, who want to dismantle public education at the cost of pleasing their big business friends who want to grow the private sector.

    I think it’s important that people really take a closer look when it comes to public education. I love my job and hope to stay in this profession for a long time; but if my class size keeps growing, I do not know how I could effectively manage and teach every single child by myself. If your child(ren) is/are attending public school, why are you voting in and letting these “leaders” do this to the system and to your CHILDREN?

  • me

    This is so sad. My goodness. I must say I’m always surprised by how quickly people shift into legal action mode … I think i’d be so beside myself I wouldn’t even be able to think on that wavelength. Personally, I think when it comes to severely disabled kids, serious evaluation needs to be done on both the child and school before the two are put together – because if the school is not equipt to deal with that then that’s not a good option. Based on the laundry list of failings in this situation on the school’s part, that poor child never should have been there. I feel really bad for his family. SMH.

  • lockstress

    This PUBLIC SCHOOL took the responsibiity of hadling the autisic child so therefore it is THEIR FAULT that the child is deceased.
    If you do not have the facilitiy to maintain a disabled child, then the parents should have been informed, forwarned, etc and so then the owness would be on the parents.
    The school is LIABLE!
    That child should have never been left alone. He should always have someone with him. He can’t frigging talk. ugh….My heart bleeds for his mother and family.

    • blow

      How come parents arent liable in cases like this?

      • lockstress

        If mom sent the boy ti school they are responsible for his well being while in their care.
        If mom was home with.him & he ran off then mom would have to be liable.
        I cry for his family.
        He is at peace now. So sad though.

  • I’m just saying

    There’s talk of Lawsuits and what not. What about answers? Too hell with anything else until we find out what happened between the school and body parts being found in the park. This is the real question. This is what I would want to know. Beside the school who else is responsible for my childs death…

  • nikko

    i know he was terrified smh.

  • susan

    My daughter has autism and i grieve for this young man as if he was my child. I pray that they are able to grieve without evil, malicious commentary. My daughter has a school aide and you better believe, i have her home number, address and cell number. I personally contact her to make sure she is taken care of because there is nothing more stressful than dealing with a child with special needs. My daughter wondered off once but the school is on lock down,so she only made it to the gym. But within 2 minutes, my work phone was called as well as an email from her aide explaining everything. As a parent, i don’t care what the payment is from the school, she gets the most AWESOME teachers, Christmas and just because gifts from me! She has been with my daughter for 4 years and I am going to really miss her when my daughter goes to middle school.

  • Harlem

    Black ppl kill me!!, Always trying to make a come up from a fucked up situation/accident. If that lil boy was in need of 24/7 watch, they should have home schooled him! Teachers are there to teach not babysit.

    • Live_in_LDN

      What has this got to do with black people? A child is dead and you want to race bait? The school aren’t responsible for him on a ’24/7 watch’ but THEY ARE responsible for him during the school operation hours. Any institute that houses minors or vulnerable people are responsible and need to provide a duty of care. if this school were more attentive of who entered and exited their premises than this wouldn’t of happened.

      • Gert

        Exactly, to have a student that is autistic and does not speak there should have been better precautions and supervision for his safety. More public schools are creating programs to help children like him. There is no excuse for a child to be able to leave school, be gone 45 minutes, wait an additional 45 mins to hour before authorities were notified. What Harlem said was a BS comment if I ever heard one. Always has to be that one ignorant comment.

        • Harlem

          Really dude! We are talking about a public school! Not a mental facility or a prison. True indeed there is question as to why there wasn’t any security or at least monitores, but im sure they knew that before he attended. “I” feel as though if u have a special needs child that’s severe as this child, he should be placed in a facility that caters to his need, not in a place to make him feel “Normal”. And speaking from a “Black” point of view I can throw that race card out because I live it every day.

          • Gert

            Yeah Really! What you said was ignorant and judgemental. Furthermore, no I do not have children with disabilities. It’s called being rational about issues surrounding children with autism. I also never referenced you throwing out the race card, I could care less about what you consider to be a “black thing”. As if only black people sue in situations like this. But what would I expect, most ignorant people make ignorant comments.

            • Harlem

              Well guess what Gert! Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one! There for I can speak how I feel about whatever I choose

              • Gert

                I guess that makes the two of us.

    • Guest

      As a parent of an autistic child who like Avonte doesn’t talk your comment is rude as hell and I really hope you’re not a parent to any child disabled or not. Yeah it’s not the school’s job to watch autistic children “24/7” because they don’t live at the school, but they are responsible for them during the hours they’re at school where in my child’s case 7 hours a day 5 days a week. So since he went missing while at the school and they didn’t keep close eye knowing that he wanders off, his family has a right to sue them and it doesn’t matter what race the family is.

    • 1st Amendment User

      If black people kill you.. You are killing yourself too…You sound stupid af.. He was an autistic child with special needs and has the right to an education, be in in a public or private school setting.., Public schools have special needs education program for just that. The teaching staff are not babysitters, , but he has specific needs and behaviors that needed to be monitored and they are responsible for meeting his needs.. He does not have to be home schooled.. I

    • jewell

      Aides are there to be with special needs children the whole time they’re in school. My son has autism and he has an aide with him always. Being in school is good for him- he’s learning a lot and part of that is socializing with other students. That’s not something I can teach him at home. Are you saying that my son should not have that opportunity, because he’s special needs?

  • Trisha_B

    Schools can be so careless. I think all schools should have security at all exits. How did his teacher not notice he was gone smh….my nephew & god daughter go to the same school (he’s in 5th & she’s in kindergarten), & their school is completely careless. I can walk right into that building, get the kids, & not a single person would ask me for id. & they barely know me b/c I hardly ever get them from school smh. 1st day of school we let my nephew know to watch out for my god daughter (who he calls his lil cousin). He checks on her during lunch & recess (they have it at the same time). & there was a day she was sick & the school didn’t even notify her mother. My nephew pulled out his lil flip phone & called her mother so she could pick her up. Lucky my nephew is moving soon so he’ll be at a different school, & my friend is trying to move also so her daughter can go to a different school.

    Schools just don’t care anymore. Idk if it’s b/c they are probably over staffed or feel they don’t need to “babysit” these kids b/c they aren’t paid enough.

    • daddysgirl

      Security guards ay every exit. Who is going to pay for that? You!

      If the svhool is so careless, which I dont doubt you, how many parents have attended district meetings and raised concerns?

  • Shanty

    Rest in peace baby boy. This is so sad. How exactly does this ensure that this situation will never happen again though? I must have missed something?

    • MNEditor2

      Ensure was the wrong word. We just meant in terms of the precautions schools take when it comes to supervising students like Avonte and all students in general, or have an impact on how schools deal with students missing. The school waited quite a while before contacting police and before even contacting his mother so we’d hope folks would try and do better after a tragedy like this.

      • PeaceToHisFamily

        And they should pay for this mother’s loss and pain, as well as the family friends and loved ones. This will not bring Avonte back, but well all know a change for the better is usually made when people are hit in their pockets or possibly face jail time.