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7 Mount Vernon High students arrested in riot

Students exit Mount Vernon High School after a

Students exit Mount Vernon High School after a riot broke out, drawing about 100 police officers to the scene, bringing the school to a lockdown. (Nov. 29, 2012) Photo Credit: Faye Murman

Seven students were arrested Thursday after a riot in Mount Vernon High School that drew 100 police officers to the scene and spurred a lockdown in several of the district's buildings.

The fighting began inside the school a few minutes before noon, prompting a response by the Mount Vernon Police Department. When officers entered the school cafeteria, where the brawl started, they were greeted by students who threw "bottles, cans and food" at them while other students were still fighting, according to Mount Vernon Mayor Ernest Davis' office.

Police called for backup, initially from within the city, then countywide. State troopers, as well as officers from Larchmont, Yonkers, Harrison and Westchester County, responded. When police broke up the fights and took several students from the cafeteria, "a crowd estimated at over 200 students followed outside," the mayor's office said.

Davis told News12 the fight was a "remnant of what happens in the street."

"It was brought back into the school," he said. "We know the reputation of the young people ... involved and they have a history, and I'm suggesting that they be removed from this environment because obviously they are not here for the learning experience."

Mount Vernon police did not return a call for comment. Despite the widespread melee, the mayor's office said there were no serious injuries.

"It was a fight between two students that escalated into a full-blown melee," said Shari Harris, a Davis spokeswoman.

The mayor's office confirmed seven students were arrested by police, but their identities and charges were not disclosed. It's not clear whether the students were released or whether they remained in police custody as of late Thursday evening.

The district's three high schools and two middle schools all were temporarily locked down as a precaution, and school officials helped police make sure students were able to walk home and board buses without more violence.

Officers were placed at posts along routes students routinely use to walk home, schools Superintendent Judith Johnson said in a statement. Johnson was slated to meet with parents Thursday night to explain what happened.

The purpose of the staggered dismissals was to keep too many students from being on the streets at the same time and potentially igniting more trouble, according to Harris.

Witness John Nigro, 52, of Mount Vernon, told Newsday that he was driving by and saw "over 100, 150" students on the front lawn of the school on California Road, east of Route 22 near the Cross County Parkway.

"I saw a bunch of students outside, cops trying to disperse them off the property and doing a very good job of it," Nigro said. "I didn't see anybody fighting, but they were arguing, yelling and screaming."

Magaly Rizzo, 15, a sophomore at Mount Vernon High School, said the fighting took place in the cafeteria and out in the hallways. After police gained control of the situation, "They told us to go to our classrooms and wouldn't let us out," she said.

Cody Thomas, 16, a junior, said one student had his head smashed through glass.

There was "a lot of rowdiness. People just figured it was time to attack," Thomas said. "I saw a lot of food being thrown, a lot of Slushies, a lot of water."

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