Do you have a game plan for school athletic event security? Shootings and other violence at high school games are not new, but they are far too common and intense

Posted by on September 16, 2023

Last night, a 14-year-old boy was killed in a school shooting as police were dispersing a crowd following a Chicago-area high school football game. Meanwhile, in Kansas City, Kansas, shots were fired during a high school football game and the school officer returned fire until the suspects fled. These are the latest in a spate of shooting incidents at high school football games around the nation since August.

But shootings and other violence at high school games – especially football games – are not new. They are, however, far too common and intense.

I first documented an uptick in shootings at high school football in 2005 with USA Today

I worked with USA Today reporters in 2005 to share my tracking of an uptick in violent incidents at high school football games.  CBS News subsequently reached out and I interviewed for that national news story on it, as well.

 

Violence in stands was overshadowing the games on the field.  Crime and other violence in surrounding high school parking lots and streets far too often resulted in shootings, injuries, and large fights.

Sadly, violence at school athletic events did not go away.  In fact, it has continued to intensify from 2005 up through today.

Best practices for school athletic event security were a focus nearly 20 years ago and most still apply today

In 2007, I wrote an article titled “A Game Plan for Safety” for the American School Board Journal (ASBJ), the magazine of the National School Boards Association (NSBA).  The full article is available by clicking here.

In the ASBJ article, I discussed the unique context and dynamics of school athletic events such as large crowds, inadequate adult supervision and mobility, intense emotions, and the influence that alcohol, drugs, and gangs can play. The article outlines specific proactive steps under three categories that school leaders can take to boost security and emergency preparedness: Plan ahead, provide adequate staffing, and be ready for emergencies. Again, you can read the full article by clicking here

Around around this period my dear friend and colleague John Weicker, Director of Security for Fort Wayne Community Schools in Indiana, created an initiative specifically focused on assessing and strengthening security at athletic events in the district. An outside assessment was conducted a sports security specialist firm and protocols were put in place around tightening ticket sales, admissions, code of conduct, and much more.  Along with the Allen County School Safety Commission, which John was an integral part of forming and leading, the lessons learned were shared throughout the county.

Building upon the ASBJ article, I also put together our School Athletic Event Security webpage with detailed free information on safety risks and proactive security strategies.

Focus forward: Use the free athletic event security resources to be proactive, strategic school safety leaders

Nationwide, security and emergency preparedness for high school football games (as well as basketball and other sports) has increasingly come into focus with school athletic directors, coaches, and other school administrators.

We routinely ask to interview school district athletic directors as a part of our school security and emergency preparedness assessment to make sure this area of security is included in our process. We have found many school athletic directors who are on top of their game in consciously planning, preparing, and practicing for school safety at their events.

In addition to the above resources, The National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4) was established in 2006 at the University of Southern Mississippi as the nation’s only academic center for the study and practice of spectator sports from K-12 schools to professionals. You can find K-12 resources at NCS4.

Yes, violence continues at our high school football games and other sports.  But we cannot be paralyzed, nor can we claim we do not know what to do.

School administrators must focus forward, be proactive strategic school safety leaders, and tap into the available best practice resources.  Do you have your game plan ready for safety?

Dr. Kenneth S. Trump is President of National School Safety and Security Services  

National School Safety and Security Services

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