Tag Archives: missing autistic teen

Senator Charles Schumer introduces ‘Avonte’s Law’


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Senator Charles Schumer's Office

A day after autistic teen Avonte Oquendo was laid to rest, one politician announced legislation that could help prevent a similar tragedy from happening.

Avonte, 14, was last seen at the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City on October 4 when he ran out of the school. Almost four months later his remains were found washed up in College Point.

There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

Senator Charles Schumer announced Sunday he will be introducing a bill called “Avonte’s Law” which will create and fund a program providing voluntary tracking devices and increase support services for families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or any other developmental conditions in which bolting is common. The program would only include children whose parents choose to use the devices.

“The tragic end to the search for Avonte Oquendo clearly demonstrated that we need to do more to protect children with autism who are at risk of running away,” said Schumer. “Thousands of families face the awful reality each and every day that their child with autism may run away. Making voluntary tracking devices available will help put parents at ease, and most importantly, help prevent future tragedies like Avonte’s.”

The bill would create a new grant program within the Department of Justice allowing the agency to award funds to local law enforcement agencies or organizations wanting to provide tracking devices for children with Autism. The funds would also help provide training and other resources to schools allowing them to be prepared to react to a situation like Avonte’s.

The new program would be modeled from the federal program already being used to help track seniors with Alzheimer’s.

“Avonte’s Law” will authorize $10 million in federal money to purchase the voluntary tracking devices and training for parents, schools and local law enforcement. The program would be run by the police department or other local law enforcement and would provide training on how to use and maintain the devices. 

The tracking devices could be worn as non-tampering wristwatches, anklets or be clipped onto belt loops or shoelaces. The devices could also be woven into specially designed clothing.

“The tragic fate of Avonte Oquendo hit home with parents in New York and across the country,” said Liz Feld, president of autism advocacy organization Autism Speaks. “We need to raise awareness and increase education so that tragedies like this never happen again.”

 

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Report shows timeline of day Avonte Oquendo went missing


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

File Photo

It has been almost four months since Avonte Oquendo  disappeared and new information on the day the autistic teen went missing has surfaced, leaving larger questions, according to the boy’s family’s attorney.

Avonte was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Ave. in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on  Oct. 4. There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

According to a Department of Education occurrence report obtained by David Perecman, an attorney for Avonte’s family, a timeline shows what happened before, during and after the boy went missing.

The 14-year-old boy was part of a class with three people watching the group. The number of children in the class is still unknown, according to the report. The group entered the stairwell on the fifth floor and then exited on the second floor, but in the middle of the descent Avonte got away from the group and made his way to the first floor.

The boy then is seen through surveillance cameras walking by the security desk twice before leaving the side door, on Center Boulevard, which had been left opened, according to the report. A few minutes later, a school safety agent closed the door.

According to the report, the boy’s teachers did not notice him missing until 12:40 p.m. and did not notify the assistant principal until 12:56 p.m. who then went to the safety agent at the main desk who told her she had not seen Avonte leave the school. Instead, she emphasized she had seen the boy go up the stairs.

Perecman said the safety agent’s story does not match the surveillance tape that shows the boy leaving the school. He also said the agent initially told Avonte’s grandmother she had not stopped the boy from leaving the school because she didn’t know he was disabled.

“It’s really very distressing to think these are the people watching over your children,” said Perecman. “This place is dysfunctional. These kids should be watching the teachers.”

The timeline report also shows the school administration did not know Avonte had left the building until almost two hours later because they did not have the security codes needed to access the surveillance tapes, according to Perecman.

Perecman also said a lockdown was not put into effect until 2 p.m. because the assistant principal’s initial request for a “soft lockdown” was denied to make sure they did not “upset other students.”

The Department of Education did not respond for comment.

Volunteers and family searching for the boy moved from their outdoor Long Island City headquarters to an indoor one at 21-81A 24th Street in Astoria

The new headquarters will be opened from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Volunteers are encouraged to stop by the site or call 718-606-6610. For more information visit the Official Help Find Avonte Facebook page.

Since Avonte went missing, the reward to find him has increased to $95,000.

Avonte was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers. He is 5’3” tall and weighs 125 pounds.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

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Avonte Oquendo’s mother won’t give up as search headquarters relocate to Astoria


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

It has been more than two months since Avonte Oquendo went missing from his Long Island City school, and all his mother wants is to bring him home for Christmas.

“Avonte is still missing. A lot of people think he’s been found and I want them to know that he is still missing and we need to find him,” said Vanessa Fontaine, the autistic teen’s mother. “He has been too long without his mother. I just want to have him home for Christmas.”

Avonte, 14, was last seen at the Center Boulevard School at 1-50 51st Avenue in Long Island City around 12:38 p.m. on Friday, October 4. There have been conflicting reports on how the Rego Park teen, who cannot verbally communicate and is supposed to be supervised at all times, managed to leave the school.

Volunteers have been searching daily for the boy, who family says loves trains. Police have searched for him by helicopter, with divers, and drove around in patrol cars and search vans with loudspeakers echoing Avonte’s mother’s calls. Volunteers have posted fliers with Avonte’s photo and information throughout the city.

Family and volunteers searching for the boy were operating out of an RV located on Borden Avenue and Center Boulevard, and tents outside of Avonte’s school. Yet, due to the cold weather, the volunteer headquarters has moved indoors to 21-81A 24th Street in Astoria and are in need of more volunteers, said Fontaine.

Fontaine said she believes someone might have her son and is asking for whoever does to drop him off at a public area, attach a note saying “I’m the missing boy, call 9-1-1,” and go on their way.

“I just want my son,” she said. “I’m not going to send any negative vibes to that person. I just want my child, that’s it.”

She also said that if anyone spots Avonte or thinks that it might be him, they should not wait, but should call 9-1-1 immediately and let police know the location.

The new headquarters, which will be opened from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week, will function as a permanent location until Avonte is brought home safe and sound, said a volunteer. Volunteers are encouraged to stop by the site or call 718-606-6610. For more information, visit the Official Help Find Avonte Facebook page.

Since Avonte went missing, the reward to find him has increased to $95,000.

Avonte was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers. He is 5’3” tall and weighs 125 pounds.

Anyone with information in regards to this incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the Crime stoppers website or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.

 

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