Maine South Restricts Middle Schoolers From Football Games
Middle Schoolers not ready for some football? After experiencing trouble from kids under high school age, Maine South bars them from attending games without an adult.
When the Maine South Hawks kick off against New Trier in Park Ridge tonight, middle school and junior high students will no longer will be permitted in the stands unless they are accompanied by adults.
The policy change was announced in a letter from Maine South Principal Shawn Messmer emailed Sept. 17 to parents of students in middle schools that feed into Maine South.
“We have tried our best in the three years that I have been at Maine South to maintain a safe venue for our middle school spectators as they are often more interested in the social aspects of such an event than the actual viewing of the game,” Messmer said. “Recently, we have experienced situations involving our middle school guests that jeopardize their safety.”
Maine Township High School District 207 communications director David Beery said there had been no major incidents, just an ongoing issue with middle-school age children acting the way middle-school students do: running up and down the stands, tossing balls back and forth and in general horsing around.
“The Maine South Administration has expended a disproportional amount of energy and manpower overseeing those middle school spectators engaging in activities that are unacceptable at a sporting event,” Messmer said. “In short, we expect our middle school students to sit in the stands with the rest of the community and watch the game.”
Beery acknowledged that while there isn’t much age difference between an eighth-grader and a high school freshman, Maine South security staff members have an ongoing relationship with the school’s students and have more disciplinary options with them.
The problems with middle schoolers' behavior got worse after lights were installed in the Maine South football stadium in 2009, Beery said.
Beery said he believed other area schools have policies similar to Maine South’s. Northwest Suburban High School District 214 does not allow middle schoolers to attend football games without an adult at any of its six schools: Prospect, Hersey, Elk Grove, Buffalo Grove, Wheeling and Rolling Meadows, said Venetia Miles, the district’s community relations director.
In Niles Township High School District 219, Niles North High School has signs up saying children under 13 must be accompanied by an adult, while Niles West has no such signage, said District 219 community relations director Jim Szczepaniak. However, Niles West officials reserve the right to call the parents of any child behaving inappropriately.
In addition to requiring middle school students to be accompanied by an adult, Messmer's letter said the stands and open area behind the south end-zone, closest to the parking lot, will no longer be accessible to spectators, balls will not be permitted in the stadium and students engaging in horse-play of any kind will be immediately removed from the stadium.
“We sincerely hope that these steps do not seem drastic, although they are a break from past practice,” Messmer wrote. “It is our hope that enforcing these simple rules with which our adult spectators routinely comply will set the appropriate example for those students who in a few short years will be Maine South Hawks.”