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Report Points Out School's Missteps in Queens Teen's Disappearance

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TWC News: Report Points Out School's Missteps in Queens Teen's Disappearance
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Vanessa Fontaine, Avonte Oquendo's mother, says she wants whomever is at fault for her 14-year-old's disappearance and death to lose their job.

"There's a lot of anger, because we want answers," she said.

Richard Condon, the school district's special commissioner of investigation, says that no one was reassigned as a result of his investigation.

"There were not enough security guards," Condon said. "I think that's very apparent because there's only one security guard on the first floor."

On the surveillance camera, you can see the boy who struggled with autism on the first floor of Riverview Public School before he runs out of an open door. Investigators couldn't identify who left it open on that October day.

Avonte was with 11 other special needs children walking from the fifth floor to the second floor when he went missing. A teacher and two paraprofessionals were with them.

Condon: There should have been more adults.
Herzenberg: Three for 12 is not enough.
Condon: Not when you're dealing with special ed children and with two children who are actually being disruptive.

The commissioner finds another fault, this one with the search, which originally focused inside the school. The principal did not have the password to access the surveillance video.

"You see him leave, and there's a camera outside that shows him running across the street and towards the Manhattan skyline, so the search then would have been focused outside," Condon said.

Avonte somehow wound up in the East River. Three months later, in January, his remains washed ashore in College Point.

"I haven't heard from anyone to come forward to me and say, 'I'm sorry,'" Fontaine said. "I would like an apology."

Avonte's mother plans to sue the city.

"This mishap is so patently their fault," said David Perecman, Fontaine's lawyer, who claims that the investigation glosses over the timeline and believes that the school safety agent has changed her story three times.

The Department of Education says that it is enhancing the training provided for new building response team members and principles, strengthening its safety and emergency readiness and augmenting the existing training that school safety agents receive on supporting students with special needs.

The Department of Education and the Queens district attorney say that they are reviewing the report.

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