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Family to sue the city after 14-year-old, now missing, was able to walk out of school

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QUEENS (PIX11) – Vanessa Fontaine refuses to give up hope that her missing son with autism will be found safe.  Last Friday, a solid hour after surveillance video shows 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo walk out of his school in Long Island City, the school called to tell her he was gone.   She was very upset they waited so long to notify her, and couldn’t believe it happened at all.

“He’s a child,” a distraught Fontaine said from her lawyer’s Manhattan office.  “How can this be?  Isn’t the school supposed to be like a second parent?”

Attorney David Perecman is filing a lawsuit on behalf of the family against the city, alleging negligence.

Boy Running Avonte Oquendo Mom thumb

“It may be the system itself that was set up improperly, or it may be some of the players within the system, either personnel of the school or the school safety division,” said Perecman.


Perecman told PIX 11 that the teen who cannot communicate verbally, may have left the school while supervisors were distracted by an altercation in the cafeteria.

The Department of Education, which is working with the NYPD, is not commenting on the lawsuit.

Vanessa Fontaine told PIX 11 she appreciates the massive search effort by police and volunteers.  She said she has no idea where her son could possibly be, and made an urgent plea for help from the public.

“If you see him, please, please, please, from the bottom of your heart, call 911 right there.  Don’t wait until you get home.”