Rival student complains of verbal abuse by Waves fans

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | John Urbancik, a parent of a Smithtown High School West student, claimed his family was mistreated during Feb. 5 Riverhead Blue Waves basketball home game.
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | John Urbancik, a parent of a Smithtown West High School student, claims his family was mistreated during a Feb. 5 boys’ basketball game in Riverhead.

A Smithtown West High School senior made a complaint to the Riverhead school board Tuesday night about lax security at a Riverhead boys’ basketball home game, saying a group of unruly parents verbally abused her in the stands as a security guard watched and did nothing from the floor.

Christina Urbancik, 17, said although the Feb. 5 game, in which Riverhead beat Smithtown West by a score of 72-71, started out “fun and exciting,” it turned into a night that would “haunt” her.

Christina claims Donald Henderson, the Riverhead School District’s head of security, watched as she was “verbally abused over 10 minutes” by a group of Riverhead parents sitting behind her and her father.

Christina said two Riverhead parents began cursing after the first foul was called on the Blue Waves with about two minutes left in the game. When she asked them to “calm down,” two other parents also started to shout at her.

“I thought the situation was going to be under control,” Christina said, referring to when she first noticed Mr. Henderson observing the confrontation. “I was wrong.”

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Christina claims Mr. Henderson “only watched” the situation unfold and didn’t admonish the Riverhead parents’ actions. She also claimed Mr. Henderson told her “one more word out of you and you’re out of here.”

After the meeting, Christina said the Riverhead parents were yelling at her to “watch your own game” and “let the kids play.”

“I was horrified,” she said. “We begged [Mr. Henderson] to get them to stop.”

Christina’s father, John, also addressed the school board during its regular meeting Tuesday night and said he decided to make his concerns public because he believes the district hasn’t been responsive to his complaint.

Mr. Urbancik claims Mr. Henderson told him there were six police officers in the gym and that he was never in danger.

“My daughter was very upset and crying,” he said. “Mr. Henderson told her to pipe down and keep quiet or you’ll be asked to leave.”

Mr. Urbancik said he had to take his daughter to the emergency room for anxiety treatment due to the altercation and believes attempting to resolve the issue with the district is part of her therapy.

“I’m not looking for a lawsuit,” he told the school board. “I just want you guys to be aware of this.”

Mr. Urbancik said he felt so unsafe that he asked a Riverhead Town police officer who was at the game to escort him and his daughter to his car.

Mr. Urbancik said he when he asked the officer why the police didn’t stop the fans from heckling him and his daughter, the officer told him the police were never notified of the situation.

“If something would have happened physically it would have taken them 40 seconds to get over there, but the damage would have been done already,” Mr. Urbancik said.

Physical education teacher and Riverhead Central Faculty Association union president Barbara Barosa said during the public comment portion of the meeting she has never felt unsafe in the Riverhead gym for the 32 years she’s been with the district and said: “For the most part, our fans are wonderful.”

“I do apologize if somebody acted inappropriately, but I do not believe standing here and talking about one person who is in charge of security is the way to resolve the problem,” she told the Urbanciks. “They’re very intense games and I want to assure these people that if there were ever any situation where they were being threatened physically, that certainly would have been handled.”

School board president Ann Cotten-Degrasse thanked Mr. Urbancik and his daughter for bringing up their concerns and declined to discuss the issue further publicly because she said it’s a personnel matter.

The board later entered into executive session to discuss the allegations.

Christina said after the school board meeting she believes similar situations could be avoided if there was designated seating areas for home and away fans.

“I definitely think a little more organization would help the school,” she said. “I’m just looking to see an improvement because I would hate to see someone else go through what I went through. I was horrified.”

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