Residents demand school closures in Mount Pleasant

Hundreds of neighbors say they are fed up with the violence and crime at two Westchester schools for troubled kids.

People packed a meeting at Mount Pleasant Town Hall Monday night and demanded the shutdown of Hawthorne Cedar Knolls School and the nearby Pleasantville Cottage School. Between the two schools, police have been called 1,500 times in the past year.

Just this past weekend, three teen boys were arrested, accused of breaking windows inside the Hawthorne Cedar Knolls School and inciting a riot just outside of it. Twenty-four hours later, a teen girl was arrested for allegedly trying to light a counselor on fire with a lighter and an aerosol can.

The schools are for children who have suffered physical or sexual abuse, but their neighbors are concerned about what happens when the kids leave campus.

Mark Saracino, creator of the Coalition for a Safe Mount Pleasant, is urging all residents to take their concerns to the state.

"We've had enough, we won't take this anymore. We live in this town, we pay taxes in this town, we support our police department. They're not your private security firm, for free," he says.

School officials say state rules actually prevent the staff from physically stopping the students from leaving campus and that they are all for trying to come up with a solution to the problem.

If changes aren't made, Mount Pleasant's supervisor is threatening to sue, and state Sen. Terrence Murphy says he will push to shut the schools down.

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