Checking in on MCPS’ New Sports Safety Policies

Fights at football games are nothing new. This year, MCPS has seemingly found a solution, but the question now is: Is it working? 

Earlier this fall, MCPS announced a new policy for students who want to attend sporting events at their own school or at another school. Some of these new rules include

  • Students going to an away game must be with an adult. 
  • Students from that school must show a student ID at home games.
  • Spectators may not reenter during half time.
  • Backpacks will not be allowed. 
  • Inappropriate or unruly behavior can lead to suspension of future sporting events. 

These new rules stem from a few incidents, including the Gaithersburg vs Northwest football game where five arrests were made. Following that altercation, both teams were forced to forfeit two games and were temporarily suspended. MCPS’s new policy was created in hopes of limiting and possibly ending fights that happen at football games and other extracurricular events. With the Northwest/Gaithersburg incident, students apparently weren’t the only ones who acted poorly. William Grant, the Athletic director for Gaithersburg claimed and even filed charges against the football coach of Northwest, Travis Hawkins (the charges have since been dropped). And on October 12th, both Gaithersburg’s Athletic Director and Northwest’s head coach were let go from their jobs at the schools. 

While it’s understandable that MCPS would want to protect its students, what seems troubling to understand is why implement the policy now? Blake’s athletic director, Jared Fribush stated, “Some of the policies were already in place. We have been placing a renewed emphasis on them.” 

Here at Blake we’ve had our fair share of poor sportsmanship and aggression. But these events have been going on for years, and MCPS has seemingly ignored them. And should the focus be solely on violence when racist incidents have been alleged over the last few years as well? For instance, last year, a player from Einstein High Schools’ girls soccer team unfortunately came face to face with racist comments directed at them from Sherwood spectators. Sherwood High School principal denounces students’ racist comments a video was sent out earlier this year about positivity and appropriate behavior, but racism and the incident weren’t specifically mentioned.

During the Blake versus Paint Branch game on Oct. 7th, it seemed that the new policy had an effect: fewer fans came. In past years PB games have always been packed, but due to the new policy where a parent or guardian must be present for a student to enter at another school, the stands were practically bare. It used to be an exciting football game with students from both schools packing in and cheering, making football games nothing short of a memorable Friday night. Sure, the safety of students and spectators are important, the participation of fans is equally influential. While that new rule may have β€˜worked’, the rest of the new rules did not; the concession stands were still packed during halftime and quite a few students had backpacks. While the new policy here at Blake seems to be working now, MCPS will have to find a way to make this policy stick long-term. 

Unfortunately MCPS’ efforts to keep athletic incidents from happening across the county haven’t been entirely successful. Last school year the football team of Bethesda-Chevy Chase high school taunted the football team of Walter Johnson high school with things like vandalizing their bus, which led to a fight outside of school grounds

Fribush was asked about the safety at football games. “I think we do a good job at providing a safe environment for our athletic events at Blake. We appropriately staff our events with security team members, administrators and athletic administrators. For larger events, we also have police on site,” said Fribush.  

Whether you think these rules are beneficial or not, remember to stay safe and responsible during games.

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