Beating video sparks arrests

SNELLVILLE -- A home video of South Gwinnett High School students beating a classmate in a school bathroom as part of a gang ritual prompted five arrests this week, an official said Wednesday.

The students subjected a recruit to a "beat-in" -- a rite-of-passage required for gang membership -- by punching him multiple times in a men's restroom, authorities said.

The beating, administered and filmed by Gangster Disciples associates, happened sometime late last semester -- after Thanksgiving but before Christmas -- at the Snellville school, according to arrest warrants.

It marks the second round of student arrests at South Gwinnett for alleged beat-ins this school year. Several changes in passing period and bathroom supervision have been made since the incidents, an official said.

The incident surfaced this week when a parent found a homemade video of the beating and reported it to school officials, said Gwinnett Public Schools spokesman Jorge Quintana.

Five teens were arrested on felony charges by school resource officers Tuesday. More arrests are expected, Quintana said.

All but one of the suspects -- a juvenile -- is 17 years old. They are seniors Solomon Seisay and Chavius Hollis, sophomore Charles Turner and freshman Alkeem Jones, the alleged target of the pummeling.

Quintana said all five students will face disciplinary action in addition to their criminal charges.

"I can't discuss specifics due to privacy issues," he said.

A state law adopted several years ago makes gang activity a felony if it's done in furtherance of any other crime -- in this case "affray," or public fighting.

Gangster Disciples is a widespread street gang with roots in 1960s Chicago, according to ChicagoGangs.org and other online resources.

In November, police arrested two South Gwinnett students for another bathroom beat-in, after a teacher noticed the victim's injuries. The students claimed to be affiliates of the Crips, calling themselves the "Grape Street Watts Crips" after a Los Angeles-based set of the same name, according to arrest warrants.

"It's important to note that at the time of the incidents, no one directly involved came forward," Quintana said.

Quintana said South Gwinnett administrators have implemented a number of "proactive" steps to help prevent additional gang incidents. Among them:

* Changes to the school's tardy policy and class-change produces that encourage students to proceed more directly to class;

* Student schedules are being coordinated with classroom locations to minimize travel time between classes;

* The school has increased the number of adults in hallways and bathrooms during class changes;

* Counselors are conducting "small group guidance sessions" that focus on behavior prevention strategies, Quintana said.

"Unfortunately, we do find that community issues sometimes find their way into schools," he said. "As evidenced by the response in this case, it's clear that our schools take these type of allegations very seriously."

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.