As federal lawmakers push legislation inspired by the tragic death of Avonte Oquendo, the family of the special needs student now has closure to at least part of their painful loss.
New York City settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Avonte’s mother for $2.7 million, the New York Daily News reports.
“No amount of money can ever heal the pain or somehow lessen the loss,” Avonte’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, said in a statement.
In 2013, surveillance video at the Riverview School in Long Island City showed Avonte, 14, opening a door and running away from school. His mother launched a mass search, with scores of volunteers, to search for him. Three months later, Avonte’s decomposed body washed ashore in Queens.
Fontaine filed a lawsuit, accusing school and NYPD school safety officials of negligence. Avonte, who couldn’t communicate verbally, was a known flight risk.
The News reported that a spokesman for the city gave this statement:
“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.”
Fontaine said in her statement that she hopes city officials “take the sorely needed steps” going forward to safeguard its students, especially those with special needs.
The city’s spokesman said that the Education Department “has taken a number of steps” to prevent a similar tragedy.
Meanwhile, ABC News has reported that the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bipartisan bill earlier this month to improve autism education and to prevent student wandering.
The bill, titled “Kevin and Avonte’s Law,” funds GPS tracking devices for special needs students, The News said. It’s also named for Kevin Curtis Willis, a 9-year-old special needs student who drowned in the Raccoon River in Iowa eight years ago.
The measure awaits approval in the House of Representatives before it goes to President Barack Obama.