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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.

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