Safety & Security

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How High Schools are Adapting in Aftermath of Fights at Games

31 Oct, 2018

By: Michael Popke
While There's No One Path, Event Owners Can Look for Ideas in Each Example

A spate of fights breaking out among either players or spectators during and after high school games has schools around the country taking multiple punitive actions and precautionary measures.

What can even planners learn from it and how can they be proactive as a result? While there has been no one line of action, there are examples any organizer can learn from. Here is a rundown of how officials responded to several incidents:

When a major brawl broke out between football players from Bernalillo High School and Española Valley High School in Española Valley, New Mexico, in early October, officials called the game in the middle of the first quarter.

Bernalillo head coach John Cobos told the Albuquerque Journal that Espanõla Valley head coach Miguel Medina made the decision for his Sundevils to forfeit the game; Bernalillo was leading 7-0 with 6:36 left in the first quarter, as Española Valley fans took the field after several punches were thrown by players on both teams.

“He said, ‘I don’t want anything to happen to your fans, players, coaches,’ “ Cobos said. “He said, ‘I’ve lost the composure of my team right now.’ That’s what he told me.”

The incident occurred the night after a former Española Valley student was killed and three others were wounded in a shooting Española Valley High School, according to the Journal.

The New Mexico Activities Association awarded the forfeit victory to Bernalillo, and multiple players from both teams were suspended for one game. The NMAA also took action against Española Valley’s fans, prohibiting them from attending the Sundevils’ final home game on Oct. 26. The association also declared it will impose further penalties on spectators if something like what happened during the Bernalillo game happens again.  

In the wake of several fights that took place on a September Saturday afternoon both inside and outside Marina Auto Stadium in Rochester, New York, Rochester City School District officials implemented a new ticket-buying policy for homecoming games hosted by the district’s two high schools: East High and Wilson.

Working with local police and members of Pathways For Peace (a citywide youth violence prevention organization), the district sold tickets for both homecoming games to students in advance; spectators under 18 years of age buying tickets at the gate were required to be accompanied by an adult carrying a photo ID, according to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.

“Basically what we’re doing is identifying those of the small population that we don’t want there, because that’s going to come with some complications,” Ramond Mayoliz of Pathways For Peace, told Spectrum News, the region’s 24-hour news channel. “It’s gonna hold a lot more people accountable for safety and security of the games.”

Rochester school leaders are working to develop a district-wide plan to increase security at athletic events, Spectrum News reports. It will be reviewed and approved by the Rochester Police Department.

Something that went viral very recently was footage of a melee that started in the handshake line of a children's football game. According to Yahoo Sports, local police had to be called after a group of grown men, including coaches and parents, joined players in Wise County, Virginia, at a midfield handshake. Two of the men exchanged words, which escalated to pushing and shoving, eventually giving way to a brawl.

Punches thrown during the postgame handshake between football players for Lehigh Senior High School and St. Petersburg Lakewood in mid-September resulted in six-week suspensions for three Lehigh players and five Lakewood players. Another Lakewood player served a one-week suspension. All suspensions were handed down by the Florida High School Athletic Association.

Additionally, host school Lakewood was fined $1,300 for its players’ role in the incident, while Lehigh was fined $500. Both schools also have been placed on administrative probation for the rest of the school year. Under FHSAA guidelines, harsher penalties can be handed down if there are any further violations by either program while on probation, according to the Fort Myers News-Press.

“Coaches and administrators from Lehigh Senior High School took quick action to protect players and students at the end of last Friday’s game,” Lee County School District spokesman Rob Spicker told the paper. “They met with the team and with parents first thing on Saturday morning to discuss what happened and worked with the FHSAA during its investigation. The school district will be adding postgame handshake etiquette to the Lee County Athletic Conference handbook. Administration at the school provided students, coaches and parents a written document outlining proper etiquette for good sportsmanship, including FHSAA guidelines and rules for sidelines and player interaction. In addition, the team will participate in a seminar to educate them on appropriate good sportsmanship. Designed by the school principal, athletic director and head football coach, it will include educational video, scenarios and guest speakers.

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