Safety & Security

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Backpack Bans in High School Arenas Could Create Problems for Event Organizers

19 Sep, 2018

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

In an effort to increase student safety at sports events, multiple high school districts have taken an unprecedented step and banned students from bringing backpacks into gyms and onto fields.

That’s right – the backpack, long a staple of any student’s back-to-school shopping, is now unwelcome. And sports event organizers need to be aware of the ramifications.

According to an article in Athletic Business, Collier and Lee County schools in Florida notified parents in advance of the first day of school that backpacks (as well as other large bags) will no longer be allowed inside district sporting venues, effective immediately. The restrictions apply to high school stadiums and gyms and will be in effect only for games.

All games will have increased security, district spokesman Greg Turchetta wrote in an e-mail.

Turchetta said purses and other small bags will still be allowed, but they will be subject to possible screening.

Last month, a shooting at a high school football game in Jacksonville left one teenager dead and two others injured.

"With all that's happened in recent times and how close to home these events are, security is of the utmost importance," said Barron Collier activities director Ken Andiorio.

In an e-mail, Collier County Schools Superintendent Kamela Patton said an exception would be made for necessary medical items, after inspection.

The Florida counties are by no means an isolated rule, however. An increasing number of school districts in Texas, Illinois, Ohio and other states, are enacting similar bans. Schools began discussing the ban after the high school shootings in Parkland. Most of the new rulings went into effect with the new school year.

Sports event organizers for travel competitions will need to familiarize themselves with rulings in each jurisdiction, in order to pass along the appropriate information to athletes, guests and spectators. In addition, extra time may be needed for inspection of equipment bags carried by athletes and team personnel. Arrangements may need to be made for bag check facilities as well, since not all spectators may understand how the rules are applied. (In addition, parents who also have small children, and who may be carrying diaper bags, will also need to find out what to expect).

Many college and professional teams have long had bag restrictions in place and have required patrons to use specific types of bags (clear bags that do not exceed 12” x 6” x 12” are the standard, and other bags must be no larger than 4.5” x 6.5”) in order to enter the stadium or the arena. One example is on Mizzou’s website, here. (Bonus points for the diagrams and the FAQs, something all event owners can take note of.)

And while college and pro teams may have unexpectedly strict rules (among these: no fanny packs, no mesh bags, no shopping bags), event organizers need to be thinking ahead to the treatment of individuals such as media, who necessarily carry camera bags, laptops and more, as well as others.

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