The mom of Avonte Oquendo, the autistic teen who was found dead after running away from school, warned his teacher in writing that her son had a tendency to run off, according to city investigators.
“Safety concerns — Please make sure you keep an eye out he likes to run,” wrote Vanessa Oquendo in a form that was sent home by Avonte’s teacher when the school year started. “Need 1-1 supervisor will leave the building,” she added.
The special commissioner of investigation for the city school system says that teacher Julie Murray “self-created” the form for parents of her autistic students as a way to get to them better. Though school rules required Murray to get administration approval for such forms, she admits that she was not aware. Still, Vanessa’s written warning did nothing to prevent her son from escaping the school under the supervision of his teacher aids and security.
Because Avonte’s building housed three different schools - mostly comprised of non-autistic children - the security guard on post did not know who Avonte was nor was she aware of his special needs.
According to officials, the form with Avonte’s mother’s warning never made it beyond the four walls of his classroom. There, administrators and school safety officers were unaware of his propensity to run away.
Since Avonte went missing last October, and later his body remains found earlier this year, autism advocates blamed the school’s security and staff for not paying closer attention to Avonte, which they argue could have prevented his tragic death.