Monday, May 22, 2006

Jewish Child Care Association's Pleasantville Cottage School

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Pleasantville Cottage School students in trouble again
May 22, 2006

NEW YORK — Honking horns and salsa music blaring from passing cars belied the still of a tiny memorial to a life cut violently short.

Three candles flanked a bouquet of yellow and white daisies at the entrance to the 1326 Grand Concourse apartment building where 26-year-old Monique Hattan lived.

Police discovered Hattan's body Tuesday night, stuffed in a garbage can on the roof of the building where she and her boyfriend, Meek Hall, lived. She had been missing for two weeks.

"In loving memory of Monique. We love you," read a printed note beneath a photo of a bright-eyed young girl seated next to a birthday cake. Scrawled below in pen were the words, "Meek AKA Respect will always love you."

The sidewalk outside was busy yesterday with revelers from the Bronx Puerto Rican Day Parade.

Raynell Poole, 18, and Dashawn Harris, 16, both residents of the Pleasantville Cottage School, are charged in Hattan's rape and killing.

Poole and Harris moved in with Hall and Hattan about a month ago after meeting Hall on the streets of the Highbridge neighborhood. They were arrested Thursday, two days after Hattan was found raped, killed and dumped in the garbage can. Published reports said she had been stabbed.

A New York Police Department spokesman declined to comment on the case yesterday.

Poole left the school for teens with behavioral problems in April, Harris in March.

The school had filed missing- persons reports, which allowed Poole and Harris to be identified as Cottage School residents on their arrest, said Michael Spindler, senior vice president for programs at the Jewish Child Care Association. He declined to discuss their backgrounds, citing confidentiality laws.

There are 190 young people, ages 7 to 19, housed at the school. Most are referred by social agencies but not through the courts.

It was unclear how long Poole and Harris had been there before their disappearance. A spokeswoman said last week that they had gone AWOL before.

A staff meeting was called as soon as news of their arrests became known.

"We're really watching very carefully to really zoom in on those youngsters that need special attention, need special counseling, psychiatric intervention perhaps," Spindler said.

Some residents are free to come and go from the campus and even have jobs in the community.

This isn't the first controversy surrounding the Cottage School.

A 20-year-old former resident pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted rape and is serving one to three years in prison for trying to have sex with a 14-year-old girl in a White Plains hotel in 2005.

Four years ago, eight girls were convicted of assault in an attack on counselor Edith Toro. The attack lasted more than an hour, and Toro was beaten, kicked, dragged down stairs, and had alcohol and bleach poured on her face.


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