HARVEST, Ala (WHNT) — Authorities say the football game between Sparkman High School and Hazel Green High School was suspended Friday after a “disruption” on the field.
The Madison County School System (MCSS) said on social media that during the game, a large number of students in an open area of the south end of the stadium at Sparkman High School began running and causing a major disruption. The school system said 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 said the disruption consisted of students rushing the field.
“There was no fight at Sparkman High School, ” Patterson told News 19. “No gun was found at the school and there were no injuries at the school.”
He said sheriff’s deputies were able to quickly disperse the crowd and all players went home.
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.
“It is our understanding that there may have been some verbal threats between both schools through social media during the day that may have caused the disruptions tonight,” He said.
Members of the Madison County Board of Education have 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 maybe 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.
“I want to personally apologize to our players, coaches, and parents of both Sparkman and Hazel Green High School football teams regarding tonight’s events,” Jones said. “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.”
Jones said he, Curry and Board Member Bill Byrd are in discussions with administrators at Sparkman High School and Hazel Green High School to see how situations like that of Friday night can be prevented in the future.
MCSS said the incident will be thoroughly investigated and proper action will be taken.