Between the Lines: Gun violence presents new security challenges
Athletic programs these days must worry about hazing, concussions and cases of sexual assault. There are declining budgets and rising costs. Referee numbers are dwindling, along with the pool of qualified coaches. This all comes while coaches and administrators try to preserve a reputable sports program for hundreds of students in their schools or districts.
And now, there are guns.
As painful as it is to admit, we’ve arrived at a time where you must think about what you can do to prevent shootings at your athletic events.
The violence is now “all too common, all too pervasive,” said Duval County (Florida) Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene. “(It’s) becoming the new normal.”
Greene’s words came less than 72 hours after one man was killed in a triple shooting following a football game between Lee and Raines high schools in Jacksonville. Two days later, at an esports tournament 6 miles south, a gunman killed two people and injured nine others before turning the gun on himself.
The conversation over gun control and safety is uncomfortable, and for that reason athletic directors tell me their schools avoid having it. It can turn political and, consequently, it dissolves into a debate over civil liberties rather than one about practical solutions. But while administrators may dread having these discussions, we’re at a point where they can no longer be ignored.
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In the days following the shooting outside of a Duval County football stadium, the school board set earlier kickoff times for a dozen games. In some cases, they moved a game to a different day.
If you look beyond Florida, you’ll find hundreds of high schools and universities taking precautions of their own. In Texas, Austin and Katy school districts implemented a clear-bag policy at their stadiums, a rule also adopted at universities in Utah, Washington, Iowa, Illinois and Nevada.
Halifax County High School in Virginia is among those that now require spectators to pass through metal detectors before entering the stadium. The department that manages War Memorial Stadium in Arkansas banned loitering on the concourse, and Science Hill High School in Tennessee established a security team to search all bags and pocket books that come through their gates.
For every school that has implemented new policies, it’s likely that countless others have done little to nothing to improve safety. Maybe you work at a school that’s ahead of the curve, or perhaps you’re part of an administration lacking a courageous voice that says this issue demands our attention. At the very least ask yourself, “Are we doing everything we can to keep our fans and athletes safe?” If the answer is “no,” it’s time to speak up.
Kevin Hoffman is the editorial director of Coach & Athletic Director. He can be reached at [email protected].