Two Flint area school systems are limiting attendance at upcoming high school football games as part of a series of new safety measures after fighting disrupted a recent match-up.
Flint Community Schools announced this week that attendance at the next two home games will be invitation-only for the Flint Jaguars city-wide high school football team.
Beecher High School in Mt. Morris north of Flint also is putting limits on fans in the stands, barring student spectators for a Friday night matchup against Flint Hamady High School.
The moves come after the Sept. 16 match-up between the Flint Jaguars and the Beecher Buccaneers varsity teams ended abruptly at halftime after multiple fights erupted among spectators inside Flint’s Houston Stadium and in the parking lot.
“The game was at halftime, and a big ruckus broke out and it re-ignited and the police said ‘we’re not going to do this’ and stopped the game,” Jamie Foster, athletic director for Flint Community Schools, told The Detroit News. “Beecher was leading … when it was stopped, and the coaches agreed that it should be the final score.
“The players were great. Beecher is a rival school and the players got along great. I was opening the locker room at halftime when it all happened right out in front of me. Both teams were together, talking and joking and there were no problems with the players or coaches, none at all. It was the students from the student body, and I’ll say it was mostly girls.”
Kevelin Jones, superintendent of Flint Community Schools, said Tuesday in a letter to families that each player on the Flint Jaguars squad will be allowed to invite five people and their names will need to be submitted the day before the game.
“At Flint Community Schools, the safety and well-being of our school community is always a primary concern,” Jones wrote in the letter. “We are always reviewing our safety protocols to ensure that we are doing everything we can to create a safe environment.”
The football games impacted by the policy change are scheduled to be held on Friday against Burton Bendle and Sept. 30.
“We apologize for any inconvenience this protocol may cause, but when it does the safety of our school community, we must act swiftly and do what is best for those involved,” Jones wrote.
Foster, who has been in the school district for 38 years, including 31 as a teacher and athletic director at Flint Northern, said altercations happen occasionally during big games, but they’re usually stopped by the arrival of police. The Sept. 16 incident, however, did not abate even with police presence.
“This time it wouldn’t stop,” Foster said. “Initially, police wanted to cancel the game and I went to the sergeant and I said, ‘Hey, let’s give it a chance to die down, it’s halftime so maybe we can get rid of the bad actors and we can take over,’ and soon as I said that it all blew up again so I couldn’t say much. They (students) just wouldn’t quit fighting and get back in the bleachers.”
Under the new rules, Flint Community Schools staff, members of the community’s education foundation, athletic scouts and Flint athletic alumni will be allowed to attend the games if they get prior approval from Foster. All attendees are required to purchase tickets to the games, the Flint school district said.
“Everybody will need an ID to get in,” Foster told The News. “We’re going to have homecoming the following week and do the same thing. Students won’t be allowed to attend, but players will have their five fans to attend, and so will the homecoming court. We’ll also have a tailgate with alumni, and we’ll know who they are, and they will be allowed too, most from the old days when we had Flint Northern, Flint Central, Flint Northwestern and Flint Southwestern.”
The Beecher Community School District also announced similar plans for its game this Friday, giving each player the option to buy four tickets, which will have to be purchased at the school prior to the school’s upcoming evening contest against Flint Hamady.
“We’ve made these decisions based on previous games with the visiting team and recent events at nearby schools,” Beecher High School principal Lance E. Sumpter wrote in a letter to families on Tuesday evening.
The Beecher school district said student spectators would not be allowed at the game and that only adults would be able to buy tickets.