New Yorkers may be wondering why the city has been blanketed for weeks with posters about a missing
14-year-old boy with autismnamed Avonte Oquendo.
The MTA has even made regular announcements asking passengers to look for the boy, who’s unable to use language.
I’ve lived in New York City for more than a decade, and I can’t recall a more high-profile search for a missing child.
It turns out New York may be putting so many resources into searching for the boy because his disappearance is the city’s fault.
In a moving column today, The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson writes about the “outrageous failure” that led to the disappearance of Oquendo on Oct. 4. The boy walked out of his Queens public school in the middle of the day. A security guard asked him where he was going but failed to stop him when he didn’t answer, Davidson writes. (Oquendo couldn’t answer because he’s severely autistic and can’t use language.)
The city has pulled out all the stops to look for him. For the first time ever, the MTA has deployed its PACIS system (the tickers that tell you when a train is coming next) to look for a missing child, Davidson notes. The NYPD sent out search helicopters and is interviewing people on the sex offender registry. Multiple agencies of the city have scoured Central Park as well as waterways, train stations, and subway lines, CBS New York reported.
Regardless of how the search ends, Davidson notes that it began with the city’s failure to protect a child with special needs. His mother, Vanessa Fontaine, notified the city that she plans to sue the city and its Department of Education over the boy’s disappearance, the Associated Press reported.
Fontaine’s lawyer, David Perecman, told the AP that school officials failed to call her until an hour after her son disappeared. City Department of Education Chancellor Dennis Walcott told the AP that the department’s thoughts are with Oquendo’s family.
“Let’s try to find the student and then we’ll do the investigation on exactly what happened,” Walcott told the AP.
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