Lakeland responds to football fight

Published 11:57 pm Friday, October 15, 2010

Last Friday night’s football game at Cavalier Park between Indian River and Lakeland was a close, hard-fought and spirited contest.

It was what a high school football game should be until a couple minutes after the final whistle, when a fight started as the two teams shook hands at midfield.

The fight escalated quickly and involved many players on both teams. It rolled onto Lakeland’s sideline and the track between the field and stands.

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Lakeland investigated the incident, which included watching a video of it, and followed the school’s Code of Student Conduct, said Lakeland principal Dr. Thomas Whitley. Whitley said he communicated with Indian River and the Virginia High School League during the process, but followed Lakeland and Suffolk Public Schools policy.

“We followed the policy of Suffolk Public Schools, but within that is the option as administrators to deal with disruptive behavior through our Student Code of Conduct and using our wisdom to decide what’s in the best interest of the school and the student based on our investigation,” Whitley said.

One Lakeland player came forward and told Whitley the part he played in the fight, said Bethanne Bradshaw, public information officer for Suffolk Public Schools, in an email.

“Video of the incident was also reviewed, but was inconclusive about other students’ involvement,” Bradshaw said. “The player has been suspended from school for three days and suspended from the football team for two weeks.”

“Our investigation showed a situation where our student-athlete did not initiate the incident, yet he was reactive,” Whitley said.

“It does not change anything for us and as far as I was concerned, he did not handle the situation as he should have,” Whitley said.

“We’ve completed the investigation. I had the opportunity to talk with Indian River’s administration and both sides felt we had taken the appropriate action,” Whitley said.

On Monday morning, Lakeland called the Virginia High School League “to share what happened and what we had done with our investigation,” Whitley said.

“Absolutely, we don’t try to hide anything when it comes to an incident like this,” Whitley said about communicating with Indian River and the VHSL.

Whitley’s been Lakeland’s principal for 13 years and said “we’ve never had an incident like this at a football game.”

“We’ve taken the appropriate steps and we’re ready to move on from this,” he said.

Lakeland’s last home game of the season is Friday against Deep Creek.