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Mary MuellerMay 9, 2017, 1:39 pmMay 11, 2017, 6:45 am

State agency halts applications to troubled Mt. Pleasant private school

Office of Children and Family Services halted applications to Hawthorne Cedar Knolls School after years of violent off-campus incidents

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The Hawthorne Cedar Knolls School sits in a residential area on Linda Avenue in Mount Pleasant. The school helps troubled teenagers by providing them with a place to live and learn while receiving mental health, social and therapeutic services.

But the Office of Children and Family Services has halted the school from taking in new students. The decision was reportedly made because of years of violent incidents involving students when they leave campus.

This past weekend, police say three teenage girls attending the school attacked a 68-year-old woman at the Valhalla train station and stole her wallet and phone. Also, in the past year, there have been at least four other incidents of alleged assaults by students.

One homeowner near the school said she didn't want to speak on camera because she is afraid of the students. She says a few years ago a student smashed her car with a stick while she and her son were inside. She feels the school has no control over the students when they leave campus.

Sen. Terrence Murphy has been working with the school to increase security to keep residents in Mount Pleasant safe. He stands behind the OCFS's decision to stop new applicants. In a statement, he said in part: "I thank and applaud Commissioner Poole for acknowledging the serious concerns of Mt. Pleasant residents and for taking this swift and decisive action."

The Hawthorne Cedar Knolls School is privately run by The Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services. The Hawthorne Cedar Knolls school district's superintendent told FiOS1 News that applications are still being accepted to the public schools.

FiOS1 News reached out to the organization for comment, and they provided the following statement on the matter:

“The Jewish Board is working closely with the State in this matter while continuing to provide the very best services for the children in our care. The Jewish Board is committed to the community of Hawthorne and to the safety and well-being of its citizens as we are to the young people we serve. The teens who live at Hawthorne Cedar Knolls have suffered physical and sexual abuse, severe neglect, the loss of family members and friends, often under horrific circumstances. The Jewish Board helps them get their lives back on track. Most of them do, working hard to overcome their challenges. Residents are here voluntarily, and state regulations actually prevent Jewish Board staff from restraining anyone who goes off site. Staff works hard to discourage them. If they do leave, staff members follow them, on foot and in vehicles, to convince them to return. Most do within a few hours.”

It's not clear when the school can resume taking applicants.

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