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Cameras installed after school 'fight club' scandal

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  • Texas authorities install cameras in school for mentally disabled
  • Admissions also suspended in wake of "fight club" scandal
  • Seven school employees placed on leave; arrest warrants are pending
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(CNN) -- A Texas agency is installing videocameras and hiring security officers at a state school for mentally handicapped adults after allegations emerged that workers there staged "fight club" battles among residents.

Admissions to the Corpus Christi State School in Corpus Christi, Texas have been suspended.

Admissions to the Corpus Christi State School in Corpus Christi, Texas have been suspended.

The Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services also announced Tuesday that it is suspending admissions to the Corpus Christi State School in Corpus Christi.

A cell phone containing videos of the alleged abuse at the school was turned over to police last week, and authorities are expecting to file arrest warrants this week, Corpus Christi Police Capt. Tim Wilson said Tuesday.

The incidents are believed to have taken place in a school dormitory, Wilson said, adding, "this has been going on for some time." Video Watch how the 'fight club' scandal unfolded »

The school's workers "are charged with the care and custody of these clients, and they are exploiting [them]," he said.

In addition to the videocameras, the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services said it is increasing supervision of night shifts at the school. It also said state school representatives would be making random, unannounced inspections during evening and overnight shifts.

Seven school employees have been placed on paid leave by the agency, according to department spokeswoman Cecilia Fedorov. Those employees are barred from coming onto the campus but must sign in at the gate every day they are on leave, she said.

State officials are awaiting the outcome of the investigation to determine whether they should take further action, she said.

Some former workers also will be interviewed, authorities said.

Fedorov said the Department of Aging and Disability Services was told Friday by the state Department of Family and Protective Services that it was opening an investigation into possible abuse or neglect after being alerted to the situation by police.

Wilson said those involved are likely to face charges of injury of a disabled person, which can range up to a third-class felony, depending on the extent of a person's involvement. The actual charges, however, will be left up to the Nueces County district attorney, who is participating in the investigation along with the Texas Inspector General's Office, he said.

Corpus Christi police received the cell phone a week ago, Wilson said, after someone found it and gave it to an officer working security at a hospital. The officer looked at several of the videos and then gave the phone to the police's forensic unit for analysis. More videos were found in the phone's memory.

"It appears it was some sort of a fight club," Wilson said. Twenty videos were found on the phone, with dates going back about a year. All the videos featured the school's "clients," who are severely mentally handicapped, he said.

On the videos, the clients "are not upset like they are being forced," Wilson said. "They are being more goaded into it. There's a lot of voices on there from workers ... saying, 'Look at that, ha ha' ... laughing, stuff like that."

No clients are seen crying, upset or injured on the videos, he said, but none of the workers is seen stopping the fighting.

"The fighting entails pushing, wrestling and some shoving," Wilson said.

The Department of Aging and Disability Services said Tuesday that the residents in the images had been assessed and were found to be free of injuries. They are receiving additional counseling, the agency said.

Wilson said that four or five clients had been identified, as well as at least five workers, possibly as many as 10.

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The clients are all adult males, ranging in age from their late teens into their 30s, he said, and as part of the investigation, the inspector general's office has interviewed some of them.

Police believe, based on the videos, that the "fight club" was confined to one dormitory, Wilson said.

CNN's Tracy Sabo and John Murgatroyd contributed to this report.

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