MCPS has announced sweeping new athletic policies after a serious altercation between the Gaithersburg and Northwest varsity football teams that occurred on Sept. 16. These new policies, which focus on tightening security measures at athletic events, have received mixed criticism from students and staff.
The changes primarily center around preventing an environment in which an altercation might take place. Adult chaperones are now required to attend the games with students who do not attend either of the participating schools. Students must have a ticket and a school ID badge to enter the game, although they can also use their Synergy accounts to enter. Viewers must be seated during the game during play. “Large gatherings” will be dispersed.
“It keeps people who don’t belong at the games and who might cause trouble from getting in. With IDs, it’s easier to know who’s in the stadium,” security guard Kelly McDonnell said.
Even tighter restrictions center around once students enter the sports event. Spectators cannot reenter the stadium after halftime, even with a valid ticket, and anyone deemed disruptive or found committing inappropriate behavior can be banned from all future sporting events. However, all of these policy changes are clearly made with fan safety as the top priority. The most controversial shift is that only team personnel are permitted on the sidelines, which significantly hampers independent photographers and journalists who cover the game.
For students, a significant part of the fun of high school football games is the crowd participation from both the home and away schools, and many fear that these new policies may disrupt the traditional high school experience. However, there is a sentiment among students that fan and player safety is the top priority.
“We deserve to be safe at sporting events; there shouldn’t be security issues at games. The ID policy should help,” junior Henry Saybolt said.