Avonte Oquendo Search Update: Search Nears Seventh Week; Dept. of Education Takes Measures in Response to Avonte's Disappearance
It has now been six weeks since 14-year-old teen Avonte Oquendo went missing from his school in Long Island City, Queens. However, his family has not given up hope.
Volunteers were out on Friday searching for the severely autistic, nonverbal teen, handing out fliers and inquiring about possible sightings.
The NYPD has scoured subway tunnels and posted missing person posters throughout New York City's five boroughs. Police have also received hundreds of tips and have reviewed hundreds of videos. So far, it has been to no avail.
New York City's Special Commission of Investigations is investigating how Oquendo was able to leave his school without being stopped by a teacher or school official. The Department of Education is also taking new measures to make sure such a disappearance does not occur again.
Avonte's family filed a $25 million notice of claim against the city on Oct. 9.
"We're going to do a comprehensive review," Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said Thursday on "The John Gambling Show."
"My heart and prayers go out to Avonte's family," he added.
School officials also plan to have enhanced security training for staff members, according to News 12 Bronx. Additionally, they plan to have safety agents and implement two-way radio and video systems, public address systems and panic-button notification systems.
Last weekend, a volunteer pilot flew a banner plane over Manhattan and New York City's boroughs to get the word out about Avonte.
This weekend, volunteers posted on the unofficial Facebook page Bring Avonte Home, "It has been 6 weeks since Avonte went missing. Avonte's greatest resource is YOU. He needs you! If you can, please dedicate a few hours of your weekend to help find him. Share his missing flyer in your neighborhood, with store owners and at transit hubs. Go to your local homeless shelters and soup kitchens, ask folks if they have seen Avonte or anyone who may resemble him. Search your area or another area with precision - go block by block, paving stone by paving stone. (...) Please continue to stay positive - we will find him!"
They also urged the public to use the hashtag #FindAvonte on Twitter to spread the word about his disappearance.
"It's tough, it's just a tough situation right now," Avonte's father Daniel Oquendo said. "But we're hoping for the best."
The reward for information about the teen's whereabouts is now up to $95,000, ABC Local reports.