Fans who get ejected for bad behavior will face new consequences

"KHSAA has made a decision to provide schools and districts with more options in which to deal with unruly fans, and we appreciate their work. We would view each situation individually before making decisions, but are always happy to have more options,” said Pendleton County Superintendent Joe Buerkley

The Kentucky High School Athletic Association Board of Control adopted a policy at their Wednesday, May 8, meeting, stating that adult fans who are ejected from a sporting event should serve, at minimum, a single-event ban.
    The new policty will go into effect for the 2019-20 school year. Officials will fill out incident reports that are filed with the KHSAA offices, but the local school districts that the fan is associated with will handle the enforcement of the suspension.
    “I think in discussing it, the board was pretty clear that they need to make this very visible step,” KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett told Josh Moore of the Herald-Leader. “Let’s fire a shot across the bow at conduct and let’s give our schools another tool in the toolbox, which is the ability to blame us for a policy. ‘Mr. Smith, I don’t want to ban you for a game, but I have to.’ Let’s try this, and if it doesn’t address the situation, then come back with a bylaw, then come back with more restrictive things.”
    Pendleton County Superintendent Joe Buerkley told the Falmouth Outlook, “This is a visible step by KHSAA to help support appropriate behavior at athletic events.  I support this decision, and everyone should be aware that their behavior may have consequences.  KHSAA has made a decision to provide schools and districts with more options in which to deal with unruly fans, and we appreciate their work.  We would view each situation individually before making decisions, but are always happy to have more options.”
    According to Buerkley, the school district would not be opposed to using the policy at Sharp Middle School athletic contests as well as Pendleton County High School.
    “I would say that we again, would treat each situation individually, but are happy to have more options available,” he added.
    Local official Brandon Gregg, who calls high school athletic contests in basketball and baseball, said, “I’m all for it. Paying $5 doesn’t mean you get to break the law or be an idiot.”
    The new policy reads, in its entirety: “Any adult spectator (adult who is not listed on the current roster of coaches for the school) at any KHSAA sanctioned interscholastic event (scrimmage, regular or postseason contest) who is removed by school administrators or by law enforcement (whether or not referred by an official) shall be suspended from attending, at minimum, the next contest at that level of competition and all other contests at any level in the interim.”
    During a high school athletic contest, any fan behavior that is a concern to the official is reported to a game administrator. That is usually the athletic director or school administrator. Responsibity for the ejection of the fan lies with that person.
    While the official cannot technically eject a spectator, they can hold the game up until they feel the environment is safe, and that might be the removal of the fan.
    “The argument can be made that most of our schools are doing what they need to do, but there are a few that either need the backing of a state policy or maybe kind of need a mallet to remind them that they’ve got a job to do, protecting this environment around the games,” Tackett said. “And it’s not just about supporting officials. It’s about safety at games.”
    Gregg indicated that this past season, one of the officiating crews he worked with had to have a police escort to their cars.
    “Fans who were ejected from the contest were outside with phones and video running. They posted pictures and photos of officials they are dissatisfied with.”
    He added that on three other occasions, fans approached the officiating crew and began badgering, threatening and being vile and derogatory.
    While wanting to see a police presence at basketball, football, soccer and baseball games, he feels that schools and administrators “...need to step up and support its officials better than they already do.”
    The argument that a fan has paid their $5 admission does not wash when fans can be ejected at concerts, shows and other venues where they had paid a higher price of admission, but their behavior has warranted their ejection. Just because a fan is at a public school sporting event does not give a patron the right to be a jerk and create a hostile environment for the athletes and officials.
    “This is a very visible step to say, ‘We’re not gonna take this.’ This is not what we represent in interscholastic competition, is you to be able to come and say or do whatever you want to. You don’t get to do that. You’ve got to have some conduct limits,” Tackett added.
    Gregg echoed the commissioner’s point. “These issues will only worsen unless it’s taken seriously and aggressively. It’s time we work together and take control back because we have allowed things to worsen to the point of what it is today. It’s time to step up and do what is right, be proactive for our student-athletes, officials, schools and families.”