The city of New York is paying out $2.7 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the mother of Avonte Oquendo, the autistic boy whose body was found in New York City's East River in January 2014 three months after he disappeared from his Queens, N.Y., school, the New York Daily News reports.
The suit accused school officials and the New York City Police Department's School Safety Division of negligence for not monitoring the exit doors of the school and not properly supervising Avonte, who was nonverbal and also had a history of being a flight risk.
“The loss of a child is a tragedy no family should endure, and hopefully the resolution of this legal matter will bring some measure of solace to Avonte's family.” the city's Law Department spokesperson, Nicholas Paolucci, said.
“The Department of Education has taken a number of steps and is dedicated to taking every measure possible to prevent something like this from occurring again,” Paolucci added.
Avonte's body was found along the Queens shoreline in January 2014.
“No amount of money can ever heal the pain or somehow lessen the loss,” Avonte's mom, Vanessa Fontaine, said in a statement. “I only hope the Department of Education and the city of New York take the sorely needed steps to properly care for all their students, especially the ones with special needs.”
As the Daily News notes, Avonte's case is unusual in that it is not quite clear what happened to the 14-year-old after he disappeared from his school. His body was so badly decomposed that the medical examiner could not determine a cause of death.
“We don't know how he got in the East River; we don't even know if he drowned,” Fontaine's lawyer, David Perecman, told the Daily News.
“That put a very big hitch in the case because we would have had to prove what happened," the lawyer added. “The city and its departments make gross mistakes, they don't address the problems, then dole out significant sums of money to make it go away.”
Read more at the New York Daily News.