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Autism Action Network Avonte Found: Call for Independent Investigations

Avonte memorial

From our friends at the Autism Action Network.
The worst fears of many were confirmed with the positive identification of remains found washed up on the Queens’ waterfront as those of Avonte Oquendo, a 14-year old boy with autism who was allowed to wander away from the Riverview School in Long Island City on October 4, 2013.

 Avonte was non-verbal and assigned to a classroom of six students with one teacher and an aide, which In New York would indicate it is a self-contained class for the most impacted students. According to published accounts, Avonte wandered away from his classmates and aide or aides in the school cafeteria, he then was challenged but not stopped by a school security worker as he left the school. School personnel did not determine that Avonte was missing for at least an hour and then they waited another hour before contacting the police department.
We are calling for a full investigation by independent entities into the multiple failures of the New York City Schools that lead to Avonte’s death. If Avonte’s mother had allowed Avonte to wander away from home she would at the very least be the subject of a child endangerment investigation. Therefore, we are calling upon Queens County District Attorney Richard Brown to launch an investigation into the possibility of criminal negligence on the part of New York City employees responsible for Avonte’s safety.
 Richard Brown
 Queens County District Attorney
 12501 Queens Blvd.
 Jamaica, NY 11415
 (718) 286-6300
The New York City Council does not have much power but it can launch oversight hearings.

And we have a new council leader not tied to the Bloomberg administration. Please call New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and ask for a Council investigation into the multiple systems failures that lead to Avonte’s death:
 Melissa Mark-Viverito
 Speaker of the City Council
 250 Broadway, Suite 1856
 New York, NY 10007
 (212) 788-6960
 We have a new Chancellor of the New York City schools, who will hopefully recognize that the primary responsibility of the schools is to keep students safe and alive,
 Carmen Fariña
 NYC Department of Education
 52 Chambers Street
 New York, NY 10007
 Telephone: 311 in NYC
212-NEW-YORK outside NYC
 And of course there is a new mayor who has already charted a very different sort of priorities than Mayor Bloomberg who was in charge when Avonte disappeared. Please Contact Mayor de Blasio and ask for a full investigation into the multiple failures that lead to Avonte’s death.
 Bill de Blasio
 City Hall
 New York, NY 10007
 Telephone: 311 in NYC
212-NEW-YORK outside NYC
This problem is not confined to Riverview School, while Avonte was missing another New York City public school student with autism was allowed to wander away from PS 188 in the Bronx. Fortunately, this student was found unharmed in Times Square.
Please share this message with friends and family and please post to Facebook and other social networks.

Autism Action Network is a national, non-partisan, grassroots, political action organization formed by parents in support of children and adults with autism,vaccne injuries, and neurodevelopmental and communication disorders. We are dedicated to advancing public policy issues affecting people with autism and related disorders, protecting their human and civil rights, educating the public and media, supporting candidates sharing our goals in state and federal elections, and holding accountable those in government who do not act in the best interest of people affected by autism and related disorders. Our vision is that all people with developmental and communication will grow and successfully participate in their community. Our mission is to be a strong and unified voice for children with neurodevelopmental and communication disorders so that each person will be provided the support necessary to live a full and productive life. Our goals include developing and organizing a strong advocacy support resource for people with neurodevelopmental disorders, their families and communities, advancing education, health insurance coverage, research, legal and legislative issues affecting people with autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders.



Thanks once again to John Gilmore. I just wanted it noted that when I attempted to post his statements by copying and pasting onto the most popular Facebook page ostensibly dedicated to Avonte, it was deleted very hastily. Not to mention that my respectful posts in which I tried to initiate serious discourse about the inadequacy of Schumer's tracking device bill got me banned from the page. Reeks of political agenda to me.

(Only wanted to "Bring Avonte" not "Home" at this point, but "Bring Avonte" validation.)

Criminal child endangerment charges should be brought up against those involved. That and termination of employment will get the changes that would definitely show the proper respect for the loss of the life of Avonte. Nothing else will suffice in my opinion.

John Gilmore

Vicki Hill, Mayor Bloomberg in his career has been a Democrat, a Republican and an independent, so partisanship has very little to do with him. Mayor Bloomberg fought for and got control of the New York City schools. He has encouraged the growth of charter schools that will not accept special education students. He implemented a much criticized policy of distributing special needs kids out of self-contained schools (as a cost-saving measure) into schools that had neither the staff, equipment, training or policies to care for students with disabilities. It was predicted then that disasters such as Avonte Oquendo's death would happen. And they have. Oquendo's death was not a natural event like a lighting strike it was the result of multiple failures of policies that Bloomberg initiated. Fortunately, he is no longer in office where he would be in a position to investigate his own multiple failures.

Roger Kulp

How common is the use of GPS devices for children and adults with autism who wander?


Many years ago I remember hearing a quick blip on the radio that a mentally handicapped child, about 7 years old, was accidentally dropped off at the wrong bus stop after school - I think it was 1 or 2 miles from his bus stop. He never made it home - was killed. I remember being horrified at how that was the only broadcast. There was no mention of this child's death that I was aware of after that. Public school related incidents are swept under the rug. Public schools are government entities. Of course try, but changing the school system is like trying to influence IACC. Unfortunately, there is unlikely to be justice for Avonte.

Ross Pettengill

We need CAMERAS in SPECIAL ED CLASSES throughout the USA! Avonte's life could had been spared if there had been cameras, alerting staff he was going out the door!!


It absolutely matters to note that there has been a change in leadership. Trusting the now-former Bloomberg administration to investigate what happened to Avonte is like trusting the CDC to investigate what happened to my son after the MMRV.


I work in classrooms like his. I want to know exactly what happened so that it might be prevented in every other classroom.

Vicki Hill

If the post were truly non-partisan, there wouldn't be the lines about a new mayor (not Bloomberg) and a new City Council member (not tied to Bloomberg), etc.

What happened was wrong. It doesn't matter the politics of the school staff, school administration staff, or the city. It...was...wrong. Focusing on change in leadership distracts from the true issue.

Bob Moffitt

"If Avonte’s mother had allowed Avonte to wander away from home she would at the very least be the subject of a child endangerment investigation."

Amen to that .. and .. holding those personally accountable for their recklessness .. is primary responsibility of Queens DA Richard Brown ..

Dawn H

Unfortunately, these types of events are happening all over the country and are extremely under reported. These children wander off from schools and the schools consistently neglect to alert authorities and families in a timely manner. The schools will conduct searches for at least am hour without alerting anyone about their disappearance. Just ask your local police departments and firemen about this. It is unbelievable how negligent the schools really are and in the vast majority of cases they are able to keep these occurances under wraps so the parents and community at large remain unaware.

I would wager that this was not the first time Avonte or other students in his class wandered off without adequate supervision.

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