Official: Task force being formed to evaluate school for troubled children

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Safety concerns have reached a fever pitch in northern Westchester as the fate of a home for troubled children in Mount Pleasant comes into question.

Last week, News 12 learned that the state decided to halt student intake at the Hawthorne Cedar Knolls School, resulting in a high-level meeting in Albany Tuesday with top state leaders. Sen. Terrence Murphy told News 12 by phone Wednesday that he brought all sides of the issue together Tuesday in Albany with the goal of creating a corrective action plan. He said a task force is being formed and existing protocols are being re-examined.

Some community activists are saying this is still not enough to keep the neighborhood safe.

“The police are called on average four times a day” says Mark Saracino, of the Coalition to Save Mount Pleasant.

Saracino, a local father, decided to take action by forming the grassroots community group last year. The group began lobbying state officials and pleading with them to stop admissions, enhance security and conduct a thorough review of programs.

They refused until more violence recently erupted off campus. Last month, four students were arrested for allegedly beating up a local restaurant owner.  Two weeks later, police say two female students threw a senior to the ground and robbed her at the Valhalla train station.

Last week, officials ordered a halt to admissions at the school’s residential treatment center.

The Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services that runs it responded by saying that it is working closely with the state and will continue to provide the very best care for the kids who need it.

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