Ahead of the first game between Westside and Wyoming County East high schools since the board of education voted to allow the sporting events to continue, Schools Superintendent Deirdre Cline put spectators on notice Tuesday afternoon that a zero tolerance policy against aggressive behavior would be strictly enforced.
Through the school system’s countywide communication system, Cline sent out a notice reminding those who planned to attend the game that everyone should be on their best behavior.
“There will be ZERO TOLERANCE for any behavior that incites violence or disregard for the safety or well-being of children or spectators at athletic events,” Cline said in the notice.
“Wyoming County Schools expects language and gestures to model the behaviors that we would expect to see in the children we serve.
“This long-standing and intense rivalry between our two high schools must remain healthy for the children we serve and for the communities at large. Everyone who attends these games must work, solidly, together in this commitment to behave in a way that is best for children – no matter what – now and in the future!”
One week ago, the county Board of Education conducted a special meeting to decide if sporting contests between the two county rivals would be allowed to continue after an increase in the number and intensity of altercations during the games.
Under the watchful eyes of the Sheriff’s Department and separated into eight small groups, nearly 130 people – students, team members, coaches, cheerleaders, faculty, parents, athletic directors, prevention resource officers, community leaders, among others – voted to continue the games.
Based on that vote, Cline recommended to the board that the games continue as they have, but with increased measures for the safety of children.
Board members then voted unanimously to continue the games, following a motion by Betty England and the second from Mike Prichard.
Those participating in the special meeting suggested increased security during the games, the presence of additional school personnel, obtaining a waiver from the Secondary School Activities Commission (SSAC) to allow the two teams to sit on opposite sides of the gym during basketball games.
Additionally, the meeting participants wanted those exhibiting aggressive behavior to be banned from all school sporting events for up to one year.
They also suggested closely monitoring, and maybe restricting, the number of tickets sold; then, keeping all additional entries into the buildings locked to restrict those who want to enter without paying.
The groups also suggested limiting the number of times the two schools play each other.
During the meeting, board member Mike Davis also emphasized that not one board member wanted the contests between the schools stopped.
He noted, however, the games could be stopped to prevent someone from being hurt or before the board could become paralyzed by lawsuits.
“We need to make sure the adrenaline stays on the court,” Davis emphasized.
Westside and Wyoming County East are “sister schools” and should set the tone by welcoming each other into their respective schools, Davis said.
“The rivalry makes the teams better,” he said.
“Every game will have a winner and a loser. Every game will have good calls and some bad calls.
“We need to teach our children good values – to win with humility and compassion, and to lose with dignity and grace.”
Kids growing up today see so much anger, Davis said, even at the highest levels of government.
“We can’t control everything they see... but we can control what they see in our county. And, they need to see something besides anger and hate.”