Keeping the Peace at Sporting Events
With violent crime on the rise and gun homicides nearly tripling in three years, Jay Hammes, athletic/activities director for the Racine Unified School District says this violence has unfortunately surfaced at high school sporting events. It's a problem, yet one that hasn't received as much attention as violence that occurs during the school day. Hammes points out one incident in Michigan in which four people were shot after a high school football game.
To reduce the number of people milling around, Hammes recommended that concession stand sales be shut down after halftime and to stop selling tickets an hour after game time. And, like professional sporting events, Hammes said schools can't allow spectators to bring backpacks or other carry-ins to the game. It is also important to make sure the event staff knows what they are supposed to be doing. If police are working an event, Hammes said they should be paired up and assigned to specific locations. Event staff should be easily identifiable and workers should be constantly moving around, not milling around in one area. One situation all educators dread is fans rushing the court after a game. Hammes said simply putting up usher ropes around the court can deter that from occurring. He uses usher ropes at sporting events in his district and said he has never had a situation in which fans rushed the court.
However, even with these tactics in place, Hammes said audience members can get out of hand. If the student section is doing an inappropriate cheer, Hammes said he pulls out a digital video recorder and stands right in front of the student section and videotapes them, "Nothing stops them faster than that." If an individual is taunting officials or opposing players or coaches, Hammes said he approaches the person in the stands and says, "We do not accept that type of behavior at our games." Hammes said if that person gets one unruly comment out of the person, he has them removed from the game, "I've learned that you can't counsel that person." Hammes also recommended an online system for purchasing tickets which allows school officials to know exactly who was at a specific game. "If you know everyone who is at the game, the behavior is going to be better, including parents," Hammes said. While an incident can occur at any event, Hammes said most violence breaks out at football games boys' basketball games and dances.
Therefore, schools should focus their energy and resources into those events. Although it may be near impossible to prevent all incidents from extracurricular events, Hammes said school board members are the ones with the power to make a difference, "You guys can make a change and have a positive impact."
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