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Hazing ritual lands high school students in jail

SUGAR HILL - A hazing ritual among students has landed some North Gwinnett High School upper classmen in legal trouble after two brothers were beaten last week, authorities said.

The assaults occurred Aug. 21 during an annual rite-of-passage known as "Freshman Friday," a series of violent acts meant to teach "respect," one victim told police.

Seventeen-year-olds Michael Suh and Hannah Park were arrested Friday and charged with hazing students and misdemeanor assault and battery. An alleged juvenile accomplice, Alex Choi, 16, is also charged but was not arrested, said Gwinnett police spokeswoman Cpl. Illana Spellman.

Police became aware of the situation when the victims' mother reported Monday that her sons had been assaulted. The eldest boy, age 16, required medical attention for bruising to his abdomen, according to a police report. He's a sophomore but attended the beatings because his freshman brother had to, the report said.

The boys told police they were gathered by older Korean students at North Gwinnett High School's office Friday and led to a recreation area at nearby Lakefield Forest subdivision.

There they were subjected to verbal abuse, hair-pulling and punches to the head and stomach. They were also kicked in the midsection while being forced to do push-ups, the report said.

Questioned by police, Choi said the hazing "was an annual thing among the students," the report said.

Jorge Quintana, Gwinnett Public Schools spokesman, said as many as seven students could be disciplined for taking part in acts of hazing. Officials at North Gwinnett first became aware of the incidents when a parent called to report them last week, he said.

Although the alleged hazing happened off campus, school officials will discipline the students because the arraignments took place at school, Quintana said.

In this case, discipline "could mean a number of things," Quintana said. "Suspension, expulsion ... whatever is appropriate for the actions."

Georgia law prohibits hazing - defined as any activity which could endanger a student's health - at all schools, colleges and universities.