Stopping violence at sporting events Warren High School's rules to stem further fights should be supported

This editorial is a consensus opinion of the Daily Herald Editorial Board.

For many of us, a Friday night high school football game is but a wistful memory - a fresh chill in the air, the aroma of fallen leaves, a place to huddle up with your honey or your pals, a chance to cheer on your team.

In many corners, things have changed. You're often likely today to see people mixing it up in the parking lot or the stands instead of just on the field. Not the jeering we've come to know, but actual violence.

It's a sad state of affairs, but sometimes it seems we can't have nice things.

Last week a fight erupted after the game between Maine South High School and Warren at Warren's home turf in Gurnee.

A 15-year-old girl from Zion - who was not a student at Warren - was arrested on a felony charge, accused of pepper-spraying a Gurnee police officer.

The result? Warren High School District 121 officials will allow access to the game only to students, parents and other fans from Warren and its opponent to the games, according to a story by our Jake Griffin.

That response is entirely appropriate. It's the duty of the school district to provide a safe experience for the children. Had it been adult boosters of Warren or Maine South causing the issue, school officials would have been in the right to exclude them as well from further games.

A safe environment must be the first priority.

Pat Keeley, District 121's associate superintendent for student services, said younger adults may have to prove they are from the competing schools - and not from elsewhere, which was the case last week. In addition, backpacks and book bags will be banned from the stands, and the concession stands will close early to avoid loitering at the end of the game.

"I don't think it's a drastic change, and I don't think it's that uncommon for districts, and it's like anything you host on campus," Keeley said.

That's an important point. Especially in the age of school shootings, administrators need to be circumspect about non-students in the building or on school grounds.

Last year, Sports Illustrated published a piece in the wake of a series of violent outbursts at high school football games, pointing to a nationwide shortage of referees caused largely by increasingly unruly behavior. It cited a national survey that showed 46% of officials "have felt unsafe or feared for their safety due to spectator, coach, administrator or player behavior."

Former Elgin City Councilman John Prigge in a comment on Griffin's story, said, "You can take a big bite out of this scenario in the future by requiring ALL attendees to buy tickets/wristbands. Put the admission kiosks near the entry points of the property before they get to the parking lots. Just like drive-in theaters do. Troublemakers will do a U-turn when they discover they have to buy a ticket before they get to a parking lot."

He makes an excellent suggestion.

We aren't seeing this happen elsewhere in the suburbs, but administrators who do decide to will be doing so for the sake of the kids.

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