School riots put fear into neighbors in Hawthorne
Neighbors of a school for troubled teenagers met at Mount Pleasant Town Hall Monday evening to demand changes at the facility.
Residents who live near the Hawthorne Cedar Knolls school are concerned about their safety after repeated incidents of violence. Some residents, who have formed a coalition that's working with police, say they want the school to do more to protect the community, while others simply want to see it shut down.
Last Friday, three boys were arrested on charges of rioting after a fight at the school. Police were called back early Saturday morning and arrested three girls. One of the girls is a 13-year-old who is accused of trying to set a staff member on fire using a lighter and aerosol can.
"The frequency and severity of these incidents appears to be indicative of some systemic failure that is occurring with the placement and handling of these youths, despite staff's best efforts," said Mount Pleasant Police Chief Paul Oliva. "I believe that this recalcitrant behavior is a foreboding of more serious events in the future."
Cedar Knolls released a statement saying staffing is not the issue. The school said it has added 26 more positions in the last year alone directly dealing with the students.