Football games kick off earlier

Shooting prompts move to make events safer for students

November 06, 2005|By BRADLEY OLSON | BRADLEY OLSON,SUN REPORTER

The Anne Arundel County school system's decision to move the starting time for all varsity football games to 5:15 p.m. has angered some parents, but the shooting at an Annapolis High game last month that prompted the change has one board member calling for a system-wide review of safety and security policies.

The administration also pledged to increase police supervision and stop selling tickets after halftime. Spectators who leave the stadium after that time will not be allowed to return and will have to leave school property immediately.

Police will ensure that there is no loitering on school grounds, and some games may be rescheduled to Saturdays.

Schools Superintendent Eric J. Smith said in a statement that the immediate actions were taken to make games safer for students, staff and spectators.

"It is absolutely critical that we make our high school games as safe as possible both for the students and the staff who are directly involved and for all the spectators who come out to support our teams," he said in the statement.

Bill Willey, a former president of Severna Park High School Athletic Boosters and a volunteer offensive line coach for the school, said many parents are upset about moving the starting times up two hours because they won't have time to get to the games from work. His wife and son are among those who won't be able to make the games with the new schedule.

Although the incident was unfortunate and caused him to be concerned like any other parent, Willey said, moving all the games up was too drastic.

"It's a shame, too, because attendance was up all over the county for football," he said.

Anne Arundel County Board of Education members said addressing safety at games might not be enough.

Citing several violent incidents that have taken place in county schools in the past few years, board member Eugene Peterson said he wanted to look at safety and security policies system-wide. In particular, Peterson said, he is concerned about recent incidents that involved weapons.

"In the suburban communities, we take the position that things just don't happen here, and that's when you get caught because things happen everywhere," he said. "We have a great bunch of leaders and administrators. Given the training about how to look for cues, I'm confident they'll be able to handle any situation."

On Oct. 28, a 17-year-old male Glen Burnie teenager shot a 17-year-old female Odenton teenager in the left thigh outside of a football game between Annapolis High School and Old Mill High School, police say. Anne Arundel County police eventually arrested a suspect and charged him with reckless endangerment because they believed he accidentally pulled the trigger of the handgun in his pocket. Neither he nor the victim was affiliated with either high school, police said.

Peterson also disagreed with the notion that the shooting was an accident.

"Guns and kids and shootings aren't accidental," he said. "They happen because we as adults aren't paying attention. I don't accept the fact that any firearm incident with a child is an accident. It's a tragedy waiting to happen."

Board member Enrique Melendez suggested the possibility of using metal detectors or hand wands at games if violence persists, as well as more extensive security precautions for teams that have rivalries.

bradley.olson@baltsun.com

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