NEW YORK, July 30, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- On August 7, 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed "Avonte's Law," New York City legislation aimed to make schools safer for special needs students. The city-wide initiative was named for Avonte Oquendo, a nonverbal 14-year-old boy with autism who left his Queens public school undetected in 2013 and tragically drowned in the East River. David Perecman, Founder and Lead Trial Lawyer of The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., who represented Avonte's mother, Vanessa Fontaine, in a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of her son and assisted in efforts to pass the bill, highlights the safety breakthroughs achieved for special needs children.
Following the enactment of Avonte's Law in New York City in 2014, several innovative and sustainable measures—as well as federal legislation—have been put in place to help ensure safety for special needs children.
In 2015, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer proposed a federal bill also dubbed "Avonte's Law" aimed to protect children with autism or other developmental disabilities who may wander away from safety.
By the end of 2015, under New York City's Avonte's Law, nearly all city schools installed alarms on their doors as well as implemented other precautionary measures to prevent students from being able to exit their schools unnoticed.
In 2016, The Journal of Pediatrics published a comprehensive study on wandering behavior among children with autism and intellectual disabilities. The study's findings highlighted the commonality of this safety issue among special needs children.
In 2017, the federal "Avonte's Law" bill was re-introduced as "Kevin and Avonte's Law" to provide resources to assist in planning, establishing or operating programs to prevent wandering and to locate missing individuals with forms of dementia such as Alzheimer's disease, or developmental disabilities such as autism.
"I am extremely proud of the strides that have been made in remembrance of Avonte Oquendo to protect other children with developmental disabilities," said Mr. Perecman. "Avonte's name is now permanently linked to local and national safety measures to help ensure a tragedy like this never happens to another family again. The sixth anniversary of the New York City's Avonte's Law passing serves as a reminder of how far we've come and what steps still need to be taken to protect special needs children."
Each year, The Perecman Firm offers the Avonte Oquendo Memorial Scholarship, which directly benefits students with autism and those with autistic family members. This year, in honor of the scholarship's fifth year being offered, the firm has increased the award amount from $1,000 to $5,000. Applicants can apply until July 31, 2020, at 11:59 EDT and the scholarship winner will be announced in August. More information about the scholarship can be found at www.perecman.com/avonte-oquendo/autism-scholarship.
About The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C. Founded in 1983 by David Perecman, The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C. is a full-service personal injury law firm with offices in New York, New York, and Jericho, New York. The firm's attorneys concentrate their legal practices in all aspects of personal injury, including construction accidents, premises liability, motor vehicle accidents, wrongful death, and civil rights matters, as well as workers' compensation and Social Security Disability. Recognized by U.S. News for the past eight consecutive years as one of the Best Law Firms in America for Plaintiff's Personal Injury in New York, and distinguished among their peers for their professionalism, knowledge, and results by nationally-recognized organizations, including Super Lawyers® and Best Lawyers®, the firm and its attorneys have recovered more than $500 million in verdicts and settlements on their clients' behalf. For more information, visit www.perecman.com.