MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — Madison County Schools officials are making plans to strengthen their current safety procedures at future athletic events after a recent incident.
The Madison County School System (MCSS) Board of Education held a special meeting Tuesday night after the Hazel Green High School vs. Sparkman High School football game was ‘suspended’ Friday night after a ‘disruption’ on the field.
According to a social media post from MCSS on Friday, a large number of students in an open area of the Sparkman HS stadium began running and causing a major disruption, adding this happened on two separate occasions during the game. Out of an abundance of caution, MCSS said the decision was made following the incident to clear the stadium and suspend the game.
Madison County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) Spokesperson Brent Patterson told News 19 that the disruption consisted of students rushing the field. He said there was no fight, no guns found and there were no injuries. Patterson said sheriff’s deputies were able to quickly disperse the crowd and all players went home.
At the meeting, Superintendent Ken Kubik announced security changes that would be in effect at future games.
- Elementary and middle school students must be accompanied by an adult to be granted entry into a game.
- The adult must remain in attendance for the child to remain at the game.
- Unaccompanied students who are unable to present a driver’s license will be denied entry.
- Spectators may not have large bags or backpacks unless there is a parental or medical need.
- Spectators must keep walkways clear for fans, teams, and officials.
- Loitering will not permitted.
- Ticket sales will be capped:
- football stadiums at 80% of the venue’s capacity
- basketball gymnasiums at 90% of the venue’s capacity
The school system said it is currently working with the sheriff’s office and its school resource officers to determine the cause of the disruption. Patterson said MCSO believes there may have been threats shared on social media before the game that may have contributed to the incident.
Members of the Madison County Board of Education issued statements regarding the incident, with Board President Nathan Curry saying he was present during the game.
“What happened at tonight’s games was totally unacceptable,” Curry said on social media. “The District will be reviewing our policies and refocus our efforts to ensure things like this are minimized, and students that create panic are disciplined to the fullest extent.”
The board president called the incident “deeply frustrating” and said he was disappointed that the teams, families and communities involved in the game had the night cut short by the disruption.
Curry said deputies on the ground told him there was no credible threat determination and that many told him that students simply started running. He echoed Patterson by saying that social media activity before the game may have been part of the cause.
“I’ve also been told that there may be a social media (TikTok) challenge that is designed to cause panic like we saw tonight,” Curry said. “Whatever the case, it will be investigated and changes will be made to try to prevent situations like this from happening in the future.”
District 4 Board Member Heath Jones also released a statement on social media. He apologized to those negatively affected by the incident and said he does not feel the incident reflects what the community stands for. Jones said in part, “This is NOT what our Sparkman community stands for and this type of behavior by our student body and patrons of our athletic events will NOT be tolerated.”