Following a brawl between the Gaithersburg and Northwest High School varsity football teams last week, Montgomery County Public Schools is implementing a set of restrictions for high school athletic events meant to prevent similar incidents.
At least five arrests have been made so far related to the brawl during the Friday night game at Gaithersburg High School, and the football teams at both schools have been suspended. The teams were both forced to forfeit Friday’s game, and will forfeit their respective games this coming Friday, MCPS announced previously.
The restrictions, which will apply systemwide starting Friday, were announced by Jeff Sullivan, the district’s director of athletics, during a press conference Wednesday. The restrictions are outlined in a three-tiered approach, with the first level of measures taking effect Friday. Those are:
- Students from the two participating schools at an event may enter with a ticket and either their student ID, or their printed class schedule.
- Students who don’t attend the participating schools may only enter if accompanied by an adult chaperone.
- All spectators must sit in the stands during the game. No “large gatherings” will be allowed, and gatherings during halftime and after the game will be “minimized.”
- Spectators at the game who leave may not reenter the game after halftime.
- Backpacks will not be allowed (some schools already have instituted this policy, according to Sullivan)
- “Inappropriate and unruly” behavior could lead to suspension from future athletic events.
- Only athletes, coaches, athletic department staff, media and other credentialed personnel may be on the sidelines during games.
Sullivan said spectators should also be aware that entering games may require extra time due to the enhanced security measures, and that there will also be separate entrances, staggered exits and additional security in “high-traffic areas.”
“Hopefully we don’t have to go any farther, and we have that positive culture and community event established,” Sullivan said. “If there is the reason for a specific game, or districtwide, we go to tier two.”
Under the second level of restrictions, only students of the home team would be allowed to attend the event and would need to show their ID or schedule. Parents of those involved in the game such as athletes, cheerleaders and band members would also be allowed to attend. Tier two could also mean that there might be additional capacity restrictions, Sullivan said.
Additionally, a team that engaged in a brawl or other inappropriate behavior under tier two restrictions could be suspended for multiple games, or banned from postseason play.
Tier two could also involve changing the time of a game to earlier in the day on a Friday, or moving it to a Thursday night or Saturday, depending on the availability of security and other staff. This practice was used last fall following a fight that broke out between students during a game between the football teams of Seneca Valley and Northwest high schools. Northwest’s next game against Quince Orchard High School was moved to an earlier start time after that incident.
Under tier three restrictions for events, concession stands would potentially be closed, only families of those involved in the event could attend and in extreme situations, no spectators would be allowed, Sullivan said.
MCPS spokesman Chris Cram said the plan is for the tier one guidelines to apply to all district high schools. But changes could be made depending on a variety of “decision guidelines,” or factors such as:
- Anticipated attendance at a game
- Rivalry history between schools
- History of incidents and
- Facility characteristics such as seating, lighting and parking lot layout.
Dan Schere can be reached at email@example.com