Thieves hit school for autistic kids

The News Leader

March 10, 2010 2:40:55 PM PST
Laptops, video games and a pet hampster are all missing Wednesday from a Staten Island school. Students and staff at the Eden II School for Children with Autism got an unexpected and unpleasant life lesson this week after someone burglarized their school.

"Soon as staff went into their classrooms, it was obvious that things were missing," executive director Joanne Gerenser said.

Over the weekend, the thief or thieves made off with laptops and other electronics and even some beloved toys. In fact, the students have put up missing posters asking for information on the whereabouts of Skippy the Sock Puppet and a collection of rubber ducks.

One bright spot is that local Good Samaritan Frank Lamorte brought in a replacement for the students' stolen pet hamster.

"I felt bad so," Lamorte said. "We just walk by the thing every day, and I said let me bring it over here.

But even that generosity can't erase the fear and confusion the theft has generated among the special needs children. Many are still wrestling with the emotional fallout.

"Disappointed and mad because stealing is against the law," student Meghan Mattei said.

The feelings are shared but everyone at the school as they try to figure why them?

"When you make a choice to steal something that's not of any monetary value, but you know that this is school for kids with autism, that makes me angry," Gerenser said.

The staff at Eden II is collecting money for a reward fund. They're hoping that will help flush out the thieves.