Police: Two high school students charged in gang ritual

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Two South Gwinnett High School students remain behind bars for conducting a violent gang ritual in a school bathroom last week, authorities said.

The incident continues a spate of gang activity in Gwinnett schools in recent months.

During school Friday, two students reportedly subjected a 16-year-old boy to a "beat-in" -- a rite-of-passage required for gang membership -- by punching him multiple times in a men's restroom. The boy's injuries were minor, an official said.

The students claimed to be affiliates of the Crips, calling themselves the "Grape Street Watts Crips" after a Los Angeles-based sect of the same name, according to arrest warrants.

Charged with battery and felony street-gang participation are Devon Young, 17, a sophomore, and Michael Lyons, 18, a junior. A fourth student witnessed the beating, and the investigation began when a staff member noticed the victim's injuries as they all left the restroom, officials said.

A bond hearing for Young is scheduled for this afternoon, while Lyons' is set for Thursday.

Neither the witness nor the victim will be charged.

The arrests come on the heels of a gang-related brawl at Meadowcreek High School last week in which a teacher was physically assaulted. The fight resulted in criminal charges against four students, including two 15-year-old juveniles, authorities said.

A month prior, six teens were arrested at Collins Hill High School for cruising the school's parking lot with a pistol in the vehicle. Several of those suspects were linked to a gang-related crime spree that resulted in 150 felony charges, police said.

Investigators said the teens claimed "South Side Jokers" as a local affiliate of Surenos 13, a notoriously violent outfit based in California.

School officials say the incidents are being met with stern responses.

A rule in the Student Conduct Behavior Code specifically prohibits gang activity of any kind. Attire that depicts, promotes or advertises gang affiliation is prohibited, said Gwinnett schools spokesman Jorge Quintana.

"Criminal gang activity is definitely not allowed in our schools," said Quintana. "(The arrests are) proof that the school system and school resource officers are very vigilant in what is going on in our schools.

"Sometimes community issues and community challenges spill over into a school campus, and this is when a school resource officer will get involved and investigate."

Not all gang activity on school grounds is violent.

In April, a female Brookwood High School student was arrested for reportedly marring school property with gang writing that symbolized her native Texas.

A top school resource officer interviewed by the Daily Post last year said gang activity in local schools has been consistent over the last several years, prone to flare-ups and quieter spells.

Obvious signals of gang membership like bandannas are less common. Gangsters have turned to tattoos, brand-specific sportswear, certain team jerseys and varying styles of dress -- rolling up a pant leg, tilting a baseball cap to one side -- as the new signals of allegiance.

Each infraction is handled on a case-by-case basis, and those who break laws can face criminal charges as well as administrative punishment at school, officials have said.