Safety & Security

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A Call for Increased Security at High School Sporting Events

8 Jan, 2020

By: Michael Popke

In the wake of a shooting at a New Jersey high school football game in November that killed a 10-year-old boy, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) is urging administrators to re-evaluate security at their venues.

“More intense security plans have been in existence at college and professional sports venues for many years; it is essential that leaders in high school sports move afterschool safety and security to the top of their priority lists. In addition to school athletic events that typically start in early evening hours, security plans also should be in place for practices inside and outside the school building,” Karissa L. Niehoff, executive director of the NFHS, wrote in her weekly blog post following the death of Micah Tennant five days after he was shot during a state playoff game between Camden High School and Pleasantville High School in Pleasantville, N.J. The alleged shooter is a 31-year-old male and has been charged with murder.

The federation offers many resources to help high school athletic administrators implement an afterschool safety and security programs, including a free online education course at the NFHS Learning Center titled “Afterschool Security.” The course provides practical strategies for developing and implementing a school safety team and an afterschool activities supervision plan. Other outside resources include Safe Sport Zone, which focuses on risk management strategies and training for security during afterschool events.

The New Jersey incident was 2019’s 23rd shooting at a high school sporting event, according to the National Center for Spectator Sport Safety and Security. The suspended playoff game eventually was finished several days later at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field in front of a few hundred family members and friends; the stadium was closed to the general public.

According to Niehoff, Larry White, executive director of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, said the decision to finish the game was made by both schools “to provide closure and send a powerful message that acts of violence and those who perpetrate them will not win.”

“As was the case with increased security at airports after September 11, 2001, the results of heightened safety plans for afterschool activities may be an inconvenience for some individuals,” Niehoff concluded. “However, plans must be in place to ensure that high school stadiums and arenas remain open for the almost eight million participants in high school sports, as well as the estimated 350 million fans annually.”

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