Autistic Teen Incapable Of Speaking Goes Missing After School Drops The Effing Ball

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surveillancevideoThe Riverdale School in Long Island City is some seriously hot water after one of their students, 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo, ran off of campus in the middle of the school day. The autistic teenager has been missing since last Friday and his family are putting blame right at the feet of the school that let their son just walk off. reports that Avtone’s family is still holding out that their loved one is alive, despite that he can’t even speak. Despite little sleep and non-stop crying from Avonte’s mother, the family are pursuing action against Riverdale:

The family said their lawyer has filed a notice of claim with Comptroller John Liu‘s office against the school that they say had been responsible for keeping Avonte safe. The notice is the first step toward filing a lawsuit.

“It’s obvious that the school is liable,” [Avonte’s brother] said.

He said the security guard did not prevent Avonte from leaving the school, and nobody told the family he was missing until an hour-and-a-half after his disappearance.

Further compounding this heartbreak are Avonte’s family’s suspicions that he is being held captive somewhere. While people have reportedly said that they have seen Avonte, authorities are skeptical of these claims given that they all involve alleged conversations with Avonte.

Searches, flyers, and a $5,000 reward are in place for the safe return of Avonte. Meanwhile, police are reportedly pouring over “hours” of surveillance tapes.

(photo:  Alexandre Dulaunoy)


  1. Cee

    October 11, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    *blink* Whaaat?! No no no. How can you have a kid run out of a school?
    I mean, we have a policy that allows a kid to run out of the classroom. In that case administration is alerted and all the exits are sealed while admin and TA’s follow the student at a distance and try to coax him/her to come back to class. The point is to not drag or distress the child further. BUT a kid just does not run out of the school.

    Usually aut classes are not supposed to be so big, you would notice a child missing, especially if one requires more attention by being non verbal. And most schools have someone watching the main door.

    I really hope they find him.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      October 11, 2013 at 6:47 pm

      We have side doors a kid could get out if they decided to. Do you have some kind of all the doors seal technology, or there’s just a code and people guard them? We’ve had runners before; it’s policy someone follows them. However, if the kid decided to sneak out…maybe asked to go to the bathroom and just went out a side door, I don’t think anyone could tell right away. If he’s not that severely autistic, he might not have an aide, and such a stealthy exit would totally be possible at our school. No one’s done it…yet.

    • Cee

      October 11, 2013 at 7:43 pm

      We have a code and its not as stealthy. Most exits have chained locks wrapped around them and the few that don’t are in rooms that are locked to everyone except for administrators.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      October 11, 2013 at 8:09 pm

      Aren’t chained doors a fire hazard? We are forever getting visits from the fire department to see that we’re up to code. If ever there’s a fire, that sounds dangerous.

    • Cee

      October 11, 2013 at 8:18 pm

      The gates are locked because they lead to the street. The doors of the buildings are opened so you can go outside to the campus open areas in case of a fire. The main doors of the school are unlocked and opened wide, but there is usually a parent volunteer or two signing in anyone that comes in .

      If a child goes lose, a code breaks out to stand by that exit and another one in the auditorium, IF the auditorium is unlocked. Administrators and teacher assistants usually stand at each building to track the child and make sure s/he is not hurting themselves and to encourage them to return to class.

      Those two opened doors as well as the buildings are only locked during school hours when there is a lockdown.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      October 11, 2013 at 8:23 pm

      Ok, I get it! When you said “exits” above I was picturing doors. You have a whole campus! Much more sense. I was picturing some of that shit from Stand and Deliver or some teaching movie in a bad neighborhood where they used to really chain the doors. Whew! See….ours is just the one building and we don’t have any gates outside so I couldn’t picture it.

    • Cee

      October 11, 2013 at 8:35 pm

      Haha oh the coincidence! I grew up in the neighborhood that had the kids go to Garfield High School, the school Stand and Deliver is based on. My grandmother actually worked there for more than 20 years and one of the schools I worked for has its kids eventually go to that school.

      The area is…a bit troubled. One day when I was absent there was a shooting across the street from the playground. The children had to just duck onto the ground and had no cover. Everything worked out fine.

      During the day time it is alright, but yes, the campus is gated and locked for safety.

    • Larkin

      October 11, 2013 at 7:01 pm

      I don’t know what this school is like, but my high school had an open campus policy. We could come and go as we pleased during breaks, and no one would stop us. Depending on the school’s policies, this might not be all that crazy.

    • Cats

      October 12, 2013 at 9:46 am

      It was very easy to leave my school – mostly people didn’t because you were seen and then the teachers would know you’d ‘bunked off’, but if you were running away it was very easy. Just walk off. Plus we often had to walk between two buildings for certain classes so could just slip away – and during Lunch you could just not come back.

  2. Momma425

    October 11, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Unfortunately, with so many students now a days and so little funds going into public education, it seems that more and more students are falling through the cracks. Still totally unacceptable.
    I hope that the child is found soon and those parents find some peace! This is terrible!

  3. A-nony-mous

    October 11, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    I’d like to have more information before I make a judgment call. It’s easy to simply say “Absolutely everything that happens inside a school is automatically 100% the schools fault!” but I don’t believe that.

    I believe schools and families work together and it can be a complex dance and that sometimes one (or both) parties can be unwilling and unhelpful to creating a good learning atmosphere.

    For instance I’ve known families of very high-needs children who have forced their way into having their children in the most low-needs (I hate to use the term ‘normal’ because I don’t view things like Autism or Downs Syndrome as ‘abnormal’ but most people would use the term “normal classroom” here) classrooms where the one teacher is alone or perhaps only with one part-time assistant in then dealing with the child. Some schools and some teachers are equipped to handle this but not all are. What was the arrangement and the school in this case? I don’t know enough about the Riverdale School to make a harsh judgment that this school is equipped and knowledgeable in dealing with severely Autistic children and simply negligently failed in their duties as opposed to being unequipped and/or not knowledgeable and the parents putting the child there anyway (for whatever reason).

    The fact that they had ‘security’ / a security guard doesn’t seal it for me. How big is the school? If they have ONE guard then that guard can only guard ONE door at a time. Most schools have multiple doors. By the time the guard got there a 14 year old could be long gone. Just because he’s Autistic doesn’t mean he can’t run and run fast. My friend’s son is severely Autistic and prone to running at the slightest feeling of rejection or being admonished and he can cross a large field in a few seconds.

    That said, I do feel that if nothing else the school was absolutely at fault for not immediately alerting the family the moment they knew that the child was gone. I can understand not being immediately able to stop a 14 year old from leaving but the moment he left the building they should have been on the phone to the family and possibly the police as well to pick him up.

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  4. Emil

    October 11, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    This is obviously a horrific tragedy but why are we so quick to jump to judgment without knowing all the details? If this child had wandered off while in his mother’s care would we have this response?

  5. Kim

    October 11, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    According to CNN the child was supposed to have a one-on-one aide with him at all times. Hope he is found soon!

  6. Stephanie

    October 13, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    A security guard asked him where he was going and, after getting no response, let him go. That security guard was absolutely negligent.

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