MADISON CO., Ala. (WAFF) – The Madison County Schools Board of Education held a special meeting on Tuesday night to address what caused the Sparkman High School vs. Hazel Green High School football game to be suspended.
Towards the end of the special meeting Superintendent Ken Kubik provided a statement that listed out everything that happened that night on Aug. 25.
- On August 17, the evening of the Hazel Green High School jamboree against Westminster, a Sparkman football player visiting the Hazel Green campus had a verbal altercation with a Hazel Green football player at the game. A Madison County SRO stopped the situation and the incident was looked into further by school administrators, Madison County SROs and the Madison County Schools administrators. It was determined that there was no credible threat. No weapons were involved or shown and this was not a physical altercation. Hazel Green and Sparkman parents were notified by administration of this incident and its conclusion.
- August 21 through August 25 (Rivalry Week), talk about the rivalry game on social media had increased. On August 21, a particular post from a Sparkman student depicting a funeral coffin aimed at Hazel Green was shared on social media. The post was investigated by campus administrators and removed by the student who posted it. Other social media posts brought to the administration’s attention was presented to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office to determine whether they were credible threats. It was determined that the questionable posts were not credible threats.
- As gameday was approaching Madison County Schools system and campus administrators met with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office and SROs to discuss security at the game. They determined that additional SROs would be present, in total 9 SROs were present inside the stadium. Hours before the game patrol deputies were informed of the game and were placed on call if needed.
- August 25 (game day), due to a heat advisory the kickoff time was 8 p.m. The first half of the game seemed normal. At half time the band took the field to perform and was followed by a presentation of state championship rings to the Sparkman girls’ soccer team. During the presentation the first disturbance occurred.
- According to deputies, in the area of the south endzone, students who were assembled in the area suddenly started running. Some went out of the admission gate while others dispersed into the stands, officials began to quickly investigate the cause. Students who had left were not being let back into the stadium.
- As teams prepared to leave the locker rooms a second disturbance occurred in the same area. Officials could not identify a credible threat. Following this disturbance, coaches, admin and both teams decided to stop the game and the stadium was cleared.
- Some students received minor injuries during the disturbances including scrapes, bumps and bruises. Medical personnel at the stadium had initially told administrators that there were no injuries reported at the stadium.
- There has been no evidence presented that a weapon was shown or seen by spectators. There was also no credible threat that caused the students to disperse in the manner that they did.
In response to the disturbance officials have decided to strengthen the current safety procedures.
- Elementary and Middle school students must be accompanied by an adult to be granted entry to a game. The adult must remain at the game in order for the child to remain at the game.
- Unaccompanied students who fail to present a drivers license will be denied entry.
- Spectators may not be in possession of large bags or backpacks unless there is a parental or medical need.
- Spectators must keep walkways clear for fans, teams and officials.
- Loitering is not permitted and ticket sales will be capped.
- Football – 80% of the venue’s capacity
- Basketball – 90% of the venue’s capacity
The board members who provided statements at the meeting were in attendance at the Senators vs. Trojans game when the incident happened
President and District 1 board member Nathan Curry led with his statement. After thanking multiple people who attended the game and the meeting he stated that he believed that administrators made the best call to suspend the game.
“The first half of the game went as expected and we were looking forward to the second half,” Curry said. “All things considered, I believe that we made the right decision to call the game.”
The incident that caused the game to be suspended happened at halftime as the Sparkman girls’ soccer team took the field to accept their 7A Championship Rings. Curry described the incident as he saw what was happening.
“Embarrassing, upsetting and dangerous,” Curry said. “I saw children crying. I saw parents deeply concerned and deeply upset. As a parent I share that with you.”
Curry continued by saying that they will “increase additional protocols to reduce the possibility of this happening again in the future.” He said that in the event that this does happen again, “we will use every available tool to discipline individuals that cause a disruption of this nature.”
He continued his statement by debunking any rumors that had no truth and rumors that were true. Curry started by mentioning a social media post that grabbed the attention of administrators a week before the game.
“In the days leading up to the game school administrators at both campuses and district personnel were made aware of social media posts by the students. We were also made aware of an incident at the jamboree game on August 11 on the campus of Hazel Green High School,” Curry said.
The incident at the jamboree game is reflected in the statement provided by Superintendent Kubik
District 4 board member Heath Jones was next to provide his statement as he also attended the game. Early on in his statement Jones gave an insight on how the disturbance came to be.
“Upon initial assessment it has become apparent that the disturbance originated from a small group of individuals,” Jones said. “I want to emphasize that this incident was isolated and not reflective of the behavior of the majority of the students and community members… Let me be clear there were no firearms or weapons used or identified during this incident.”
According to Jones’ statement, there were also no physical altercations, reported injuries to the district during the incident nor any rushing to the field. He continued by saying that there was damage to school property such as “damage to fencing surrounding the stadium and a large gate that will have to be replaced or require significant repair”.
“To address this incident and prevent future occurrences we have taken immediate steps,” Jones said. “Our school administration in collaboration with our local law enforcement has initiated a thorough investigation to identify those responsible for instigating this disturbance.”
District 5 board member Bill Byrd started his statement by mentioning a Hazel Green student who had died on Aug. 5 in a car accident.
“Prior to the game the narrative of his death on some social media platforms became dangerous and insulting,” Byrd said. “These social media posts were also untrue.”
Byrd continued by saying the fictious posts were brought to the attention of administrators, school personnel and law enforcement and that they were “fully aware of the rumors of that happening at Friday’s football game.” He followed that by saying that pre-game planning was conducted to minimize the risk to the public.
Byrd then said that while he was at the game he saw “a large group of students in the area in front of the concession stand.”
“I heard a noise and multiple people screaming and saw approximately 10 students moving towards the Sparkman stand from the concession area.” he said. “The crowd moved very slowly and seemed to stop and realize that nothing had happened. Mr. Jones and I completed the ring ceremony…without incident and shortly afterwards other flash mob actions occurred at the concession stand and the game was correctly suspended.”
Byrd stated that he had went home and saw a lot of speculation on what had happened on social media. He then took the time to reiterate that a lot of what he saw was false.
“The football field was stormed by groups of students…fiction. A gunshot was heard at the game…fiction. A gun was brought to the game…fiction. A knife was brought to the game…fiction. A physical fight occurred at the game…fiction. Multiple injuries required medical treatment…fiction.” Byrd said.
Byrd finished by saying that he “looks forward to examining the facts and not the fiction of Friday night” and apologizing to the community who came “just to see a football game.”
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