Security concerns raised for Riverhead home and away games

by |
03/28/2013 1:30 PM |

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead fans at a basketball game in March 2012.

More than a dozen Riverhead parents and Blue Waves fans met with Superintendent Nancy Carney last week to express concern about security and fan behavior at some of the more heated high school games — both at home and away.

Although it was not a public meeting, Ms. Carney later said the district is looking at ways to improve the fan experience.

Parent Kiesha Washington-Dean told the News-Review that last Wednesday’s meeting occurred in response to a Smithtown family’s claim that a Riverhead School District security official only watched as a father and daughter were verbally abused by a group of unruly parents during a Feb. 5 boys basketball game in Riverhead. In that game, which came down to the wire, Riverhead defeated Smithtown West 72-71.

The Smithtown family’s allegations were made during the public comment portion of the Riverhead school board’s regular meeting March 12.

Ms. Washington-Dean, whose son plays on Riverhead’s varsity basketball team, said although the allegations prompted the recent parent meeting, its focus was on rectifying problems parents believe have been recurring throughout the school year.

“We think that our issues were heard,” Ms. Washington-Dean said. “We all walked out [of the meeting] feeling pleased because they are willing to make changes.”

She and other parents say the district needs to provide security at away games to protect its fans, students and student-athletes. Ms. Carney said in an interview the district had discussed sending security guards to away games but ultimately decided to start sending school administrators instead.

“We will make sure we have an administrator there so, if there’s something bothering somebody, they have a person to go to,” Ms. Carney said. “The things we want as a district are to make sure we’re supporting our athletes and to make sure we’re presenting ourselves in a light that shows how proud we are as fans.”

While some parents want more security at away games, Ms. Washington-Dean said she and other parents don’t want Riverhead Town police officers at home games because they believe it gives the school a “bad perception.”

Ms. Carney said police are invited to most school events that draw large crowds to provide an extra sense of “comfort and security.”

“In my opinion, it’s good practice,” Ms. Carney said of having cops at games. “And most of our police officers are fans as well. They enjoy being at the games.”

Also responding to parent concerns about inequitable treatment from refs in the most recent basketball season and in years past, Ms. Carney said the district is evaluating data and plans to have a subsequent meeting with the district’s athletic director. She’ll also meet with the head of security and high school administrators to come up with ways to enhance all school sporting events.

“This was the first step, listening to the concerns from the community,” Ms. Carney said. “We’re using the information we’ve gathered so we can put things in place for next year that will help us go forward in a positive direction.”

jennifer@timesreview.com