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PTC girl cleared of gang charges forced to change schools

Eight female students from Booth Middle School and one from McIntosh High School in Peachtree City were arrested in December on gang-related charges. One of those girls, Gabby Santamorena, was later cleared of the charges, yet the 13 year-old is not being allowed to attend her school and has been transferred to another middle school by the Fayette County School System.

The mid-December arrests of the eight female students from Booth Middle and one female student from McIntosh High School, all ages 13-15, on gang-related offenses were the culmination of an investigation by the Peachtree City Police Department concerning complaints made by other students, police said. The complaints involving the girls, who referred to themselves as the “Blood Divas,” included reports of harassment, threats, bullying, “beat-ins,” and weapons-related offenses, police reports said.

Gabby’s father, Tom Santamorena, said Thursday that after arresting his daughter at school, police during the initial phase of the investigation seized her home computer, cell phone and camera. And the investigation showed that Gabby was not involved with the other girls and the charges were dropped by the juvenile court system, Santamorena said.

Santamorena said his daughter had been suspended from school after the arrest. Gabby being cleared of the charges was no surprise to her father since the allegation that led to her arrest came on the day she had been under the direct supervision of her parents and not with a group of eight girls that allegedly travelled on two golf carts to the home of a victim who later gave the girls’ names to police, Santamorena said.

So with Gabby cleared of the charges Santamorena had expected that she would return to Booth Middle.

“The court system called the school system and told them the charges had been dropped,” Santamorena said. “The school system attorney told us that the (school system disciplinary) tribunal had been cancelled and Gabby could return to school last Friday. Then about an hour later he called and said Booth didn’t want her to return.”

Santamorena soon received written confirmation of the message. The letter from the Fayette County School System said, “they felt it was it Gabby’s best interest” not to return to Booth, said Santamorena. Gabby is now attending a different Fayette County middle school and is enjoying being there, he added.

Contacted Thursday, school system spokesperson Melinda Berry-Dreisbach commenting on questions concerning the reassignment said, "Our priorities are to provide the best educational opportunities and learning environment for the success of our students."

It should be noted that a school system’s statement that relates to issues involving students is often limited due to student confidentiality requirements.

The charges may have been dropped and that may be the end of things for Gabby, at least in terms of criminal charges and returning to the classroom. But for Tom Santamorena there is the unresolved issue that his daughter’s reputation is tarnished even though she was shown to be innocent of the charges.



buy a dictionary, learn to spell if you are going to write

Ever heard of capitalizing the first letter in a sentence?

Would you mind telling the bad speller that you would be glad to show them how to use a spell check? Privately of course--not on here to get glory!

I have criticized bad spellers before and I have had a few bad spellings. Usually though the bad spellers I criticize know better they are just lazy!

Me, I'm lazy also.

I kindalik writin likthis itsavs space....paragraphs wedon't needno stinkin paragraphs! Or aby may omsa ig-pa atin-la? Lazy3 -GP

Just didn't see it when I typed it.

Did anyone see the interview with this girl on WSB? "Gang member"? She's a typical 13 year old teenager, for crying out loud.

She was arrested...a FELONY arrest, which she'll now have to explain on every college application in Georgia....on charges of "possessing gang paraphernalia".

You won't read about what constitutes "gang paraphernalia" here in the Citizen because the "reporter" is Ben Nelms, but WSB found out what this deadly gang stuff was: pink bracelets and pink head scarves.

I doubt this girl Gabby could even scare observerofu!

Her big "crime" appears to be being bff of another girl who was arrested.

Like they say on the Simpsons: "Mighty fine police work, Lou!"

Maybe Skip Clark's officers should stick to their core competency: writing traffic tickets.

carbonunit52's picture

This whole episode is sorry to the max.

The 'success' of the actions of the legal system is not always 'justice'. Glad to hear that Gabby is enjoying her new school. Since the father's name has been published, now all of her new classmates possibly know her name. But this is a small town, so everyone may already know all of the details. It actually may be in Gabby’s best interest to be in a new school as the District spokesperson stated. Better investigative work on the part of law enforcement and school officials is in order. Hard lessons learned - I hope.

about success vs justice. still think our legal system is the best one going, though. not perfect, but pretty damn good. and i'm not speaking from up on high. i've had a few unpleasant experiences with various aspects of the legal process; some i brought on myself and others not, but all left definite impressions on me regarding what side of the law i wanted to live on.

A preliminary investigation should have shown this girl was innocent. -GP

i didn't see the interview, but i respectfully disagree that appearances/mannerisms be used to evaluate criminal capacity.

correct me if i'm wrong here (and i don't mean that rhetorically), but sounds to me like there was probable cause (wearing and being in possession of the alleged gang's identifying clothing). in a gang, affiliation is more significant than with other types of criminality. charges have not been dropped for the other girls, so we can't extrapolate from this dismissal that none of the arrests will rise to prosecution. as the investigation progressed, the charges were dropped by the DA. sounds like everything went according to design. the legal system will see this out.

i agree that the arrest is unfortunate for gabby, but the take-home if she were my daughter would be the importance of carefully editing one's relationships.

Mike King's picture

...And now that the truth is finally coming out, where are all those that thought it necessary to arm themselves because of 13 year old girls.

Maybe Skip Clark needs a return trip to Florida before the lawsuit is settled.

All Smiles's picture

Typical Peachtree City Police work, only thing missing this time is former police Chief Murray. His standard was to arrest before investigating or even questioning. Chief Murray’s mode of operation is still in many of the officers mindsets. Too bad this girl got caught up in this mess. Hopefully this girl will learn a valuable lesson; pick your friends wisely.

Good ridance to the school. That whole gang in their PTC bubble and swimming pool bubble. I pray it is investigated further as I am sure some PTC Peach Tweens got mommie and daddie to slip some something something to the officer.
And Melinda your sweet little peaches will get theirs if mommies and daddies keep turning their heads, that's just wrong to force Gabby into another school.
Like the guy on TV who followed the bank robbers and turn them in, I am sick to death of the spoil brash rude inconsiderate teens/tweens who dominate the strips grocery parking lots and run around on their golf carts unsupervised. Shame on PTC cops for letting them get away with it too, shame on the parents for allowing the city to try and baby sit your kids, hell aint nobody watching those kids.
PTC's little bubble is going to fizz down one day, it is already leaking.

Dondol's picture

This is as good as a Coka-Cola truck running over a Surgeon, its a slam dunk. I would Sue the Hell out of FCBOE, the new Superintendent, Good ol Mr. Lumbard and all the rest of them. Good Lord, sometimes you would think Forrest Gump was running our schools, because over at FCBOE it really is Stupid is as Stupid does!

Oh I agree100%! I'd opt for an American court and a good lawyer anytime!
As you said - not perfect-but the best in the world.

Gene61's picture

FCBOE screwed up here, why not allow her to return to Booth? Something is being held back from the public.

“The school system attorney told us that the (school system disciplinary) tribunal had been canceled and Gabby could return to school last Friday. "

Sounds to me like some pressure was applied to the principal and staff that forced them to say they didn't want her to return. The typical loud mouth parents most likely who didn't look at all the information before passing judgment.

In this case it looks like guilty despite the charges being dropped.

and is happy. I see no problem.

Look at what's happening at WHS! Those kids come from WMS! Has anyone checked out the bullying/taunting going on there? It's ridiculous! It follows the victims from elementary to middle to high school, then no one can figure out why the kids reach the breaking point and bring weapons to school. It's because they are fed up, done, can't take it anymore! But because it's 'allowed' by the adults at the school, then it NEVER stops! "It's just kids being kids" is what school officials say. Well, it happened again: but PA officials protect their students on and off campus. Let's all make a mass exodus to the north.

I am so sorry that this child was not allowed to go back to Booth. I believe the teachers and staff should have supported her and really made an effort to get her back where she had every right to be. She should not be left feeling rejected by the school she thought of as hers. I know that bad things can stick with a person forever and being falsely accused and then punished as though she were guilty has to be the worst thing that has ever happened to her.

What the school and/or board of education has done is an example of bullying--the very thing that schools say they are trying to prevent! I know that all bullying is not done by fellow students. I do believe that most teachers and school staff care about children and attempt to be fair, but I also know that some are guilty of crossing the line into subtle or worse interactions with students they don't personally care for. Some, of course, simply do not know how to handle bullying when they see it.

I believe all schools should be working on procedures that will clearly outline what is to be done when children are in danger from bullying at the hands of other children, teachers/staff, and boards of education! These procedures should be distributed to all parents, too, so they will know what to expect if their child is a perpetrator, but more importantly, they need to know what they can do if their child is a victim.
(If what happened in Gabby's case is a policy, they need to know that, too, so they won't be blind-sided when their child is not treated fairly.) However, I doubt it is a written policy since the child was told she could return then, shortly thereafter, was told she could not return to Booth. If you can't make up your mind--lean to the side of justice!

Innocent, until proven guilty, punished? Okay. Innocent, accused, proven innocent, punished anyway? NOT okay.



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