BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — As the sun set over All-High Stadium, there were fewer fans than usual at the Bennett Tigers football game against Orchard Park. It was the first game where new security measures were tested, one week after a massive fight broke out during when Bennett hosted McKinley High School.
“The party’s over. We’re not going to allow it any longer,” President Sharon Belton-Cottman of the Buffalo Public Schools Board of Education told News 4.
The district is cracking down, adding extra security guards, Buffalo Police officer, and other layers of security after a fight ended the game between Bennett and McKinley after halftime. Four people, including three students, were arrested and Buffalo Police is still investigating.
“These kids were off the chain. I’m serious. My grandson got four touchdowns, I didn’t even get to see one of them,” Martha Means, grandmother to a Bennett player, said.
BPS announced the new security protocol ahead of Bennett’s game against Orchard Park. Student spectators, as they are called by the district, from both teams have to be invited by a player or cheerleader. They have to submit their names ahead of time and check-in when they get to the game.
Everyone passes through an Evolv Weapons Detection system, which are installed in Buffalo Public School buildings. Also, the district says any adult over 19-years-old can attend the game as long as they show identification.
“All the commotion, you didn’t know who the kids were who were actually fighting. I don’t mind, I don’t leave home without it [license],” Means added.
“This is a good thing that you guys are doing but I just think that adult wise, maybe 21 and up the list should be a little different. There’s a lot of supporters on both sides,” Sherrad Bennard, parent of a Bennett football player, explained.
The rules apply for both the home and away teams at both All-High Stadium and Charles Dingboom Field at Riverside High School.
“It’s super sad that the kids that go here and play in this stadium can’t play in front of their friends and family. That’s the real disappointment here. It’s all about the kids because they’re the ones who really take the hit,” Maureen Bass, parent of an Orchard Park football player, said.
Parent leaders and the school board president say there needs to be more discussion about the policy.
“My hope is that this reactive posture the district took doesn’t stay in place. I hope they will engage other stakeholders like parents, like students to make a more well rounded policy,” Aymanuel Radford of We the Parents of Western New York said.
“I agree with that. I think it is a fair assessment,” Belton-Cottman said. “We want to make sure this is a well-rounded experience for our students.”
No one from Buffalo Public Schools was available for an on camera interview, but Dr. Tonja Williams issued the following statement:
High school football is a time for fun and healthy competition, but it must be done in a safe environment. As a result, starting immediately, every player and cheerleader will be able to invite three student spectators to each home game, so we have a record of who is attending games. Minors must be accompanied by an adult. Adults are welcome to attend games with identification. All-High Stadium and Riverside High School will also have an Evolv security system installed; the gates will close 30 minutes after the start of each game; and loitering is not permitted during or after games. We will also explore expanding the live streaming of games so fans can watch them online. The Buffalo Public Schools continues to work with the Buffalo Police Department as it investigates the incident at Friday evening’s Bennett-McKinley game. Again, safety and security continue to be my top priority.”Dr. Tonja Williams, Superintendent of Buffalo Public Schools
The Bennett Tigers are on the road next week, but return to All-High Stadium on Sep. 29 to host the Lancaster Legends.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.