Avonte’s teacher informed of teen being ‘runner’ prior to disappearance: report


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com |

FILE PHOTO/Handout
FILE PHOTO/Handout

Avonte Oquendo's mom had expressed concerns about her son being a "runner" to his teacher prior to his disappearance, according to a newly released report.

Avonte Oquendo’s mom told his teacher he was a “runner” well before the autistic teen escaped from his school never to be seen again, according to a report released Thursday.

The report by the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District says Vanessa Fontaine, Avonte’s mother, had expressed her concerns on a form created and sent home at the beginning of the year by the boy’s teacher, Julie Murray.

“Safety concerns- Please make sure you keep an eye out he likes to run. Need 1-1 supervisor will leave the building,” wrote Fontaine in response to the section “questions or concerns that I have include.”

Murray never shared the information with school administrators and Avonte’s Individual Education Program did not provide for a one-to-one paraprofessional, according to the report.

However, investigators also visited P.S. 4, where Avonte attended three years prior, and teachers said that the teen’s mother had never expressed any concern that he might run away. The school staff described him as a “prompt dependent,” who needed an adult’s permission before completing an action.

Avonte was a student at the Riverview School which shares space in the building known as the Hunters Point Campus in Long Island City across the street from the East River.

The day of his disappearance in October Avonte was heading back from the cafeteria with a group of students and three school employees when he slipped away. He was last seen running out of the school. Almost four months later his remains were found washed up in College Point.

The investigation found Avonte ran out of the building through a door left opened by an unidentified man. Investigators also cited the lack of school safety agents at the front of the school, and miscommunication and confusion on the teen’s disappearance from school administrators.

Fontaine declined to be interviewed by SCI investigators, the report said.

The report was referred to the Department of Education and Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown.

Brown’s office said they received the report and it is currently under review.

“The situation was truly tragic. Our school communities mourned. And today, we learned more about what happened on that fateful day,” DOE spokesman Devon Puglia said. “We are reviewing the report closely and are committed to working diligently to prevent another tragedy like this from ever occurring again. Our thoughts are with Avonte’s family.”

 

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