Teacher on trial, but defense says provocative dancing is common

Nathan Grigsby is on trial this week in DeKalb State Court, facing five counts of contributing to the deprivation of a minor. The former Southwest DeKalb High School teacher, who was fired over the incident, is accused of allowing his students to put on what prosecutors called a “Chippendales-style revue.”

Solicitor-General Robert James, after reciting a couple of raunchy verses in court, told jurors, “This was the song that was booming through the speakers in the defendant’s classroom as three young men turned a Southwest DeKalb High School classroom into a two-bit strip club.”

The video showed three male students – who also are charged – remove their shirts and dance provocatively while girls screamed and giggled. One of the boys took off his pants.

The boys dropped to the floor, gyrated and grabbed female students while simulating various sex acts, all seen on a video posted on Facebook. Two girls are seen leaving the classroom as the dance begins.

The performance was part of an "open-mike" session in Grigsby’s chorus class in December 2008, his attorney Jackie Patterson explained.

One of the girls testified she once dated one of the boys charged.

“They were singing to me, picking me up," Joicelyn Crocker, 18, testified. "One grabbed my legs and picked me up by my waist. He had my ankles.”

Reginald Brayon told jurors he saw the video on his son’s Facebook page and contacted school officials, who later turned it over to the solicitor.

“It was very disturbing to me,” testified Braylon, whose son, 16, plays in the Southwest DeKalb band. “Mr. Grigsby looked like he was observing, he was watching and in some parts he was smiling. I actually enlarged the video to make sure I can see, and noticed it was Mr. Grigsby.”

Patterson argued the teacher did not watch the whole performance, was helping another student and stopped the music after he realized what was going on.

“Mr. Grigsby did what he could to stop this act when he noticed it,” Patterson said.

Grigsby can only be seen in a portion of the video, which is little more than a minute long. However, the teacher comes into view in the back of classroom when the boys are grabbing the girls.

James described how, as one of the boys inappropriately touched a female student, Grigsby stands  nearby. “He leans over and smiles and laughs,” the solicitor said of the teacher.

Patterson admitted that the dancing was provocative, but said that it was normal activity at the school.

“That is customary and usual activity at Southwest DeKalb,” Patterson said. “This is what the kids do daily, weekly, monthly at Southwest DeKalb.”

School officials and prosecutors argued that the dancing was not customary at all.

“What I saw was inappropriate,” testified Eric Kemp, a Southwest DeKalb assistant principal.

Last week, the solicitor charged Jerramy Barnett, Joe’l Shumate and Kiyon Benton, the three dancers, in connection with the performance. The boys, each 19, face charges of public indecency and disrupting a public school.

On Monday, Judge Johnny Panos took a break in the middle of Grigsby’s trial to arraign Barnett and Shumate, who both pleaded not guilty.

The teenagers, who graduated last year, planned to testify on behalf of their former teacher, but are now reconsidering since they face criminal charges, too. The teens claimed they didn't know they were charged until coming to court on Monday.

Testimony in Grigsby’s trial will continue Tuesday. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

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