Editorial – Proactive approach by SPS to ensure safety at sporting events

Published 4:53 pm Friday, September 1, 2023

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High School football season is in full swing in most states. Friday nights bring out families and students from all over the community to watch two schools battle it out on the gridiron. 

When we step foot inside the gates of our local stadiums, we don’t typically worry about our safety, only the safety of those participating in the game. Injuries are a part of the sport. They are not, however, part of being a spectator. Likewise, the threat of violence against players and coaches should also not be of any concern during the course of the game.

So far this season, several games have been marred by chaos caused by threats of gun violence or actual gun violence.

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On Friday, Aug. 18, in Jacksonville, Florida, police shot and wounded a 16-year-old, who they said fired a gun into a crowd leaving the First Coast vs. Ribault high school football game when it was called off in the third quarter.

On Thursday, Aug. 24, right here in the Hampton Roads area, shots were fired outside of the Kempsville vs. Green Run, and while this did not occur inside the stadium, it created chaos within the stadium, and the game was ultimately suspended. Two individuals were injured in that incident.

On Friday, Aug. 25, a video emerged from Columbus, Georgia, of players and referees diving to the turf during the Heritage Classic game between Carver High School and Spencer High School. Three juveniles were arrested outside AJ McClung Stadium on weapons charges. On Wednesday, Muscogee County School District announced no varsity football games would be held at the stadium for the remainder of the season due to its inability to adequately staff the stadium to provide a safe environment.

Also on Friday, Aug. 25, in Choctaw, Oklahoma, a 16-year-old died as a result of a gunshot that occurred during the third quarter of the Choctaw vs. Dell City football game. Three others were also injured in the incident. As of this writing, no arrests have been made, however, two firearms and eight rounds were confiscated on the scene, according to the Choctaw Police Department.

Also on Aug. 25 in South Los Angeles, a staff member of Maya Angelou Community College was wounded by a gunshot while on the sidelines of a football game. According to police, the woman was struck by a stray bullet that was fired in the vicinity of the football stadium.

Five shooting incidents in and around high school football games, and we are only in the second week of football for some. A cause for concern, for sure.

Many school districts have begun to revise policies to include clear bags and those with resources will be including weapon detection systems at stadium gates.

Suffolk City Public Schools did not wait for these incidents to occur. They have been proactive for many years having weapon detection systems in place to maintain the safety of players and spectators. It is a measure that we may take for granted, but one that should be commended.

The value placed on life has dwindled and we as a society need to change that. 

These measures are not the be-all and end-all, however, it is a great step to ensure the safety of the fans and participants. 

The hope is these incidents are not a sign of things to come this year but simply isolated incidents that took place around the same time. Football is a time to gather as fans and cheer on our student-athletes, celebrate our alma maters and we should not have to worry about whether violence will erupt.