New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)
Chaperones required after fights mar game
Policy for sporting events set after alleged violence between high schools
NEW HAVEN — The New Haven Public Schools will require students to be accompanied by a parent or guardian at future sporting events after fights allegedly broke out at a football game Friday, according to the district.
Superintendent of Schools Iline Tracey made that an announcement in a letter to the Board of Education Monday.
There allegedly “were several fights that occurred in the stands during Friday’s football game between James Hillhouse High School and Hamden High School.
These incidents created conditions that were unsafe for spectators and required intervention by the New Haven Police Department, as well as our public safety officers and administrators,” Tracey said in the letter, thanking those who intervened.
The game was played at Hillhouse.
“Maintaining safe conditions for our students, staff, families and community members is our highest priority in New Haven Public Schools,” said Tracey’s letter. “Therefore, until further notice, students may attend our sporting events only in the company of a parent or guardian.”
The parent or guardian is required to be “present for as long as the student is in attendance,” Tracey wrote.
Justin Harmon, director of marketing and communications for New Haven Public Schools, confirmed the letter had been sent to the board Monday.
The policy is intended to help safeguard attendees at games and respond to the situation that developed Friday, Harmon said.
Jody Goeler, Hamden’s superintendent of schools, said his “understanding is that … two of our kids were involved in a fight.”
They were escorted off the premises and dealt with by administrators, he said.
Goeler was told there were other fights during the game that did not involve Hamden students and
said he believed it was not a town-versus-town issue.
The Hamden district is not planning to require all students attending sporting events to be accompanied by a parent or guardian, according to Goeler. He was not aware of any other fights that had occurred at sporting events involving Hamden students since the start of the school year, he said.
New Haven school board member Darnell Goldson said Monday he was concerned that students would unduly punished by the new policy.
He said he had asked Tracey to share more information, including the number of fights, the number of students involved, how many attend school in New Haven and the policy backing for the decision. The board had not been involved in the change, he said.
“I don’t have all the details yet, but I do think those students who were not involved should not be punished with those that were,” said Goldson. “I would have preferred a more nuanced policy.”
Goldson said he hoped the change would only be in effect for a brief time.
Students are just getting back to socializing after being homebound during
the coronavirus pandemic, he noted; events like high school football games were a big part of growing up for many.
Harmon said that, while the chance to socialize was important for students, their safety was even more crucial. The policy is not permanent, he said, but is an enforceable way to ensure games are safer in the near-term.
There were approximately six fights at the game, involving both New Haven students and young people from other communities, he said.
“It is not in any sense intended as a punishment,” said Harmon, noting the importance of safety and setting an example for competition.
Contacted Monday, New Haven citywide Athletic Director Erik Patchkofsky said, “Any questions on the policy, please refer to the document sent out by the superintendent on behalf of New Haven Public
Hillhouse parent Bethzaida Roche said she saw the video of the fight.
“Speaking as a parent, I think they could have better security,” she said.
City police Officer Scott Shumway said officers were working at the football game Friday night and
received assistance from patrol.
No arrests were made, he said.
Goeler said said that for Hamden’s home events, the athletic director works with school security and police to develop a safety plan, including a map where officers are stationed,. The district also has “strict guidelines” for how spectators can behave — book bags are not allowed, and everyone must remain in their seat, he said.
“Middle school students … are accompanied by an adult, and the other piece is that students who are behaviorally struggling in the high school … there’s a list that’s created and given to the people who man the gates and they’re not able to attend home events,” Goeler said.
He did not immediately have the number of students on the list but said it varied week to week and was “probably more of a handful of students.” It’s a disciplinary strategy the district uses “to come up with consequences for students without expelling them or suspending them,” he said.