Our View: School events also a source of learning
The policy of disallowing students in eighth-grade and below from entering events at Jack Groce Stadium without an adult supervisor does more harm than good. It usurps important opportunities for social instruction and learning -- learning that is essential as younger students prepare to transition into upper grades. Worse, it ostracizes students who have learned those lessons well and who have earned the independence of an evening with friends at a school-sanctioned event.
We understand that the problems of youths attending stadium events without supervision are significant: It is common that as many as 10 percent of the 2,500 paying patrons at an evening football game will be younger than the age of a typical eighth-grade student -- and will be there with no accompanying adult. As many as 10 percent of these children can be seen outside the gate long after the game is over, waiting for a parent to arrive.
We believe Watauga High School Principal Marshall Gasperson when he says that this situation presents concerns for both safety and enjoyment of the event. But while cutting the Gordian Knot is the easy answer, it is not the right one.
This is because we also believe that Gasperson has worked hard, and achieved, a safe environment for all fans at stadium events. At any given football game, Gasperson has the assistance of as many as eight police officers, six teachers and two administrators. When similar crowds at events, such as an evening at a skating rink, can be controlled by an assistant manager and handful of teenage skating guards, it seems WHS has adequate resources.
Still, we do not mean to say that the problems some children present at stadium events are insignificant. There is potential for real harm under unwatchful eyes.
We also do not mean to say that student control is the sole responsibility of those in charge of the stadium.
Education begins at home, and parents must do their job to instruct their own children in matters of independence and authority. Parents must also act like parents, and note that a Friday night football game does not constitute free child care, and it does not absolve them of the responsibility to respond rapidly to a call from Gasperson or another supervisor should a situation arise.
At the end of the night, this situation is not unique to Watauga High School. Indeed, high schools throughout North Carolina and the nation wrestle with these concerns weekly. Yet, we would be hard-pressed to find another school that has engineered so radical a solution as turning away students at the gate.
Gasperson, our Superintendent David Kafitz and the members of the Board of Education have chosen no easy career paths in agreeing to the education of our children.
When students enter Jack Groce Stadium, they enter a learning environment.
Choosing not to educate by not allowing students to attend these events does nothing to further the mission of our school system.