Avonte’s teacher was told of teen’s tendency to run: Report

By Alex Robinson

Avonte Oquendo’s teacher had heard warnings from his mother that the autistic teen was a runner before he disappeared, but failed to share this information with his school’s administrators, a new report by the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the city’s schools revealed.

Julie Murray had made a point of obtaining information about her students enrolled in the Riverview School in case there were any safety concerns parents had, the report said.

“Please make sure you keep an eye out. He likes to run,” Avonte’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, wrote to Murray.

Murray never shared this information with any of the school’s administrators, the report said.

“The assumption I had was that she was sharing this,” Fontaine told reporters at a news conference in her lawyer’s Manhattan office Thursday.

The mother had not spoken to the press since the boy’s remains washed up on the College Point shore in January.

“Everyone was to look out for my child, not just her, but whoever was taking care of him,” she said.

The report included the testimony of school staff members who came into contact with Avonte Oct. 4, the day he vanished from the Riverview School, at 1-50 51st Ave. near the East River.

The 14-year-old, who could not speak, had been in Murray’s class that morning.

Murray, with the help of a paraprofessional, had lined up her students at 12:05 p.m. and escorted them to the cafeteria for lunch.

Between 12:30 p.m. and 12:40 p.m., the report said two paraprofessionals and another teacher lined the students up again to take them back to class. By the time they had reached the classroom on the second floor, they noticed Avonte was gone, the report said.

Video footage showed Avonte exiting a stairwell and entering a first-floor hallway at 12:37 p.m.

A security guard who was signing in a parent at the time said she saw Avonte running past the elevators and toward the women’s bathroom, the report said.

She told investigators she called out “excuse me” to the boy, but she could not chase him as she was the only one at the security desk.

A video that recently surfaced showed Avonte then headed down a corridor and darted out of a door which was left open by an unidentified man.

“Someone has to pay for this mistake,” Fontaine said.

The mother filed court papers in January, hoping to reverse the Police Department’s denial of a Freedom of Information Law request her lawyer filed on her behalf requesting information about the NYPD’s investigation into Avonte’s disappearance.

Fontaine’s lawyer said the mother now intends to file a wrongful death suit against the city and Board of Education, but is waiting until the NYPD releases the information she asked for.

Avonte’s mother said she has not heard an apology from the mayor or any other city officials.

The special commissioner’s report has been referred to the Queens district attorney, the city’s DOE as well as the state Education Department for review.

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.