The family of the 14-year-old nonverbal autistic boy found dead months after slipping out of his school must now engage in an extended legal battle in an attempt to find out how it happened. Vanessa Fontaine, Avonte Oquedo’s mother, has filed an emergency lawsuit against the city in hopes of accessing the Department of Education’s private files on the child’s disappearance. She has been previously denied the information twice after a Freedom of Information Act request, with the city claiming at the time that it could interfere with an ongoing investigation and could be an “invasion of privacy” or “endanger the life or safety” of Avonte. (He was confirmed dead yesterday.)
A lawyer for the family said they believe the boy was missing for 45 minutes to an hour before the police were notified and seeks “detailed investigative information not only about the actions of the teachers and paraprofessionals and administrators of the school, but also about the security system in place and the actions or inactions of the school security agents, employees of the NYPD,” ahead of filing a $25 million lawsuit against the city.
“This involves a terrible tragedy, and the City’s thoughts are with Avonte’s family,” said a spokesperson for the Law Department. “We will review the legal case thoroughly once it’s received.”