Friday, September 12, 2008

Metro schools add security at football games

Earlier shooting raises concerns By TOM KREAGER • Staff Writer • September 12, 2008 Metro officials have added security for some football games this season after a shooting in McGavock's parking lot during a basketball game last season. Security will be heightened tonight because of expected large crowds for Maplewood's game at Hunters Lane and Pearl-Cohn's game at Whites Creek, said Ralph Thompson, the assistant superintendent for student services for Metro Public Schools. This will mark the first time that Metro officials have hired security to search cars, Thompson said. There also have been more security wands used as metal detectors at stadium entrances. "There is definitely more security than last year," said Thompson, who added that the shooting last November served as a "wake-up call" for Metro. "We always have had basic security. We had that at that game where it occurred." Every game will not have an increase in security. Rivalry games and contests where tips of possible trouble are received generate the need for more security, Thompson said. A minimum of four officers, who are off-duty police officers, are hired to work high school games in Metro. Hunters Lane Athletics Director Chip Sullivan said at least 10 security officers will work the Warriors' game tonight. That includes two patrol cars — one car will be helping to direct traffic. At Whites Creek, Thompson said about six security officers will work the game. Prevention or panic? Reaction from parents has been mixed. "There is a need for added security because of the student rivalries," Hunters Lane parent Mary Clark said. "There is a lot of bad blood between some schools." "I never felt unsafe last year," Antioch parent Gretchen Cantrell said. "I think (the Antioch) area gets a bad rep. I defend Antioch. I guess it would depend on where I'm at. At (Antioch High) I'm fine. Some of it is overblown." But parents don't know what goes on behind the scenes, Thompson said. School officials sometimes get tips leading to the need for more security. No tips involving the games at Hunters Lane or Whites Creek have been received, Thompson said. "When we can prevent something from happening we want to do that," Thompson said. "Parents may say, 'What's the big deal? Nothing happened.' That's a good sign." Metro's budget covers up to four officers per game. Any additional officers are paid through the school's general athletic fund. Security officers are paid $25 an hour with a minimum of four hours. Sullivan said an officer with a patrol car costs between $70-80 an hour. Games in Rutherford, Sumner, Wilson and Williamson counties range between $80-85 per officer. None of those counties uses security wands. Principals outside Metro also gauge the need for increased security by the opponent. "If it's an 8-0 team playing an 0-8 team we may have six," Riverdale Principal Tom Nolan said. "But we'd probably have more if it were two 8-0 teams because it would be a bigger game. "We consult with our (school resource officers) before the season and make another judgment call a week or two before the game." Big-game decisions Oakland Principal Butch Vaughn said 14 officers — including two mounted patrolmen — worked the season-opening game with Class 5A rival Riverdale, and there were about 6,000 fans. Tonight for Oakland's homecoming game with Franklin County, six security officers will be used. "I'd rather have too many and not need them than not enough and need them," Vaughn said. Last week six security officers were used for Ravenwood's home game with Franklin, which had about 3,000 fans. That's two more than games that don't pit two Williamson County teams against each other, Ravenwood Athletics Director Patrick Whitlock said. Bill Tollett, athletics director at Class 1A Eagleville, said two officers are at every home game. All security costs come out of the football team budget in Rutherford, Sumner and Wilson counties. In Williamson, costs are taken out of each school's general athletic budget.

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