On October 4, 2013 just shortly after noon, a parent’s nightmare became reality. A child has gone missing.
Young Avonte Oquendo, just fourteen years old left his Riverdale school in Queens without the staff even knowing. Oquendo has non-verbal autism which makes it difficult for him to communicate with others and for others to infer his introspection.
A week has passed so far and there has been no trace of young Oquendo. The family is worried and things seem to be grim. New York weather around this time is unpredictable. There are times it can be a summer like day and other times when it can be cold as winter. The fact that a young autistic kid that cannot talk is lost in this big city without shelter, food, or water is troubling and heartbreaking. I cannot imagine what his parents and family are going through.
Unfortunately, things like this happen far too often. The public school system has a poor employee training system that concerns more about job requirements than actual people. Teachers, school aids and others cannot intervene if a child is hurting him/herself. They must stand back and allow the child to injure him/herself. A normal response from a caring sane person would be to stop a child from hurting him/herself; however, this is not the case when one holds one of these positions. It is scary indeed. No attempt to stop a kid from slashing his/herself will done. This is of course based on union rules in order to protect employees from termination for using aggressive physical force or from being accused of inappropriate touching. Legalism puts aside common sense and caring. Industrial psychologists must find ways to balance laws, career requirements and human dignity.
Moreover, since the education system and unions concern themselves more with the issues surrounding employment and bureaucracy, not much concern is given to the safety of children. In light of this, kids like Avonte are not supervised and are left to go missing. No one is held accountable, and officials reply ” no comment” to questions. Those charged with supervision are defended as “doing their job.”
Some have criticized Oquendo’s parents for filing a lawsuit, but I think this is a good way to bring out the message that our kids are first. We shouldn’t put our jobs, laws, careers over the safety of children.
Thank God many volunteers have stepped forward to help in the search for young Avonte. Unfortunately, some “psychics” are calling in giving false information and hope to officials conducting the search. This should stop. No one has “psychic” powers. Temporal events are not determined linearly. There is a $70,000 reward for anyone with information leading to finding Avonte.
Let us pray for Avonte that he may be found safe and sound.