Scoring Safeties: Instances of students’ safety being put in jeopardy results in upgraded security measures at sporting events

Security+guards+block+the+entrance+to+Cumber+Stadium+at+Marjory+Stoneman+Douglas+High+School+in+order+to+check+fans+before+the+Pig+Bowl%3E+Extra+security+was+required+before+the+game+due+to+the+large+number+of+fans+in+attendance.

Theron Piccininni

Security guards block the entrance to Cumber Stadium at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in order to check fans before the Pig Bowl> Extra security was required before the game due to the large number of fans in attendance.

Reece Gary, Sports editor

Every fall, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School varsity football team competes in the infamous Pig Bowl, a match against rival Coral Springs High School. The game is a tradition instituted within the football seasons of both teams, year after year. However, one tradition of the Pig Bowl was interrupted for the 2021-2022 season. It wasn’t the football game itself that changed, or the amount of fans packing the stadium or the tradition in which the losing team’s principal has to kiss a pig. Of all the elements that went into hosting the Pig Bowl, the thing that changed was one of great importance: security.

Security measures surrounding football games at MSD weren’t changed on a whim, as the adjustments were a result of many events throughout Broward County. School security threats have become more and more noticeable this school year, given social media and other forms of widespread communication that allow for information to travel faster. 

Whether it be facts or simply rumors, harmful statements can be made throughout social media platforms and encountered at an increasingly higher rate. For example, October 2021 alone included five Broward County schools being threatened by a potential attacker through social media.

“I think that the climate we are in right now and the school threats that are becoming more constant have caused a heightened awareness. We want to make sure that everyone is safe,” MSD Assistant Athletics Director Matt Winans said.

In addition to the increase of school threats, schools across other Florida counties have had instances of weapons being brought onto school property, both at sporting and after school events and during regular school days.

“The school board of Broward County made the decision to change how security was handled at football games. Other counties saw many incidents occur, so Broward County felt that there was a need to step up security before anything happened here,” Assistant Principal Jay Milmed said.

To combat all these possible dangers, MSD, along with other Broward County schools, mandated increased security at events held on school grounds. Although a general increase in school security measures were put in place in February 2019, recent events have been especially evident of the change. The most notable of these updates in security came at this season’s Pig Bowl.

As the high-traffic game approached on the night of Oct. 29, cars rolled into the MSD north parking lot in large numbers. Greeting the cars as they entered school grounds was a line of security guards in bright green vests, directing the traffic through the full lot of cars and people. During most other games, cars normally arrived with a variety of available parking and without any need for security to control the entry process.

The new parking procedures combined with the heavily-crowded Pig Bowl game led to an overflow of parking that forced many fans to park at the nearby Westglades Middle School.

Once parked and on their way to enter Cumber Stadium, fans made their way into a line of people, all being surveilled by police and other security guards. The large crowd at the game established a need for the use of metal detectors as an extra layer of security. This included security guards being equipped with wands to be used as needed at the stadium’s entrance.

After being pat down at the front of the line, there was a check-in table at which fans would show their prepaid tickets in order to be allowed entry. Previously at most other football games, fans would be able to approach the ticket table and enter the stadium with a much shorter entry line and no security measures. 

Other than just entry procedures, fans had to go through a few other security measures. At the game, fans were prohibited from bringing in any bags, therefore preventing possible weapons, harmful substances or any other dangerous objects from being brought into the game.

Moreover, MSD wasn’t the only school to experience tightened security for sports events, as the district-wide security mandate caused other high-traffic and important games to undergo the process as well. During the MSD football playoff game at Western High School, for instance, security was increased and maintained to guarantee that the large event was kept safe and secure. 

Interestingly, Western High had an even more tight procedure, as multiple screening processes and a mark placed on the hand of attendee were required before entry into the stadium. Meaning that instead of a uniform policy across Broward County, schools are given leeway to establish security regulations that best fit their school and situation.

Fans weren’t the only ones affected by the advanced security, however, as many players have seen the authorization’s effectiveness. According to junior Tucker Jean of the MSD varsity football team, players were prevented from bringing bags onto the field during games at Cumber Stadium, therefore leaving their belongings in the locker room or team bus for a game’s entirety.

With most of the fall sports seasons coming to a close, schools across BCPS have prepared for implementing the security mandates in MSD’s various winter sporting events such as soccer, basketball, wrestling, and competitive cheer. According to Winans, the prohibition of bags has been put in place for events held in the gym, which encompasses basketball games. Additionally, per an updated BCPS mandate that went into effect on Nov. 29, the use of metal detectors and an increased presence of security will be in place for the winter sports season.

This increase in security has evoked mixed feelings between event attendees. Although it is widely-recognized that increased security is greatly beneficial to ensure the safety of all students, staff, and other fans, the process of going through complex security measures is an overly-complicated process. According to a survey of 350 MSD students, only 67.6% believe that sporting events have the correct amount of security, and just 86.5% feel completely safe at the same event, even after the recent increasing measures of security were established.

Although the majority of students are confident in the school’s security measures, there are still a great number of students and other fans who have their doubts. Some students believe that, despite the district-mandated upgrades, sports security is still a work in progress.

Anything could happen at any given time. Every time I am at a game, I see little to no security at any gates. Maybe one or two security guards, but that is about it,” senior Jonathan Penn said.

On the other hand, some students are discontented with the security changes because of the strict nature of security. A popular belief expressed during the survey was that many students felt unsatisfied with the prohibition of bags.

“I think [security] should at least allow small bags because some people have keys and hygiene products that they may need to keep with them, and not allowing bags prevents that. If they are so concerned about the bags, they should just do a bag check and only allow small bags. In conclusion, no bags at all is unrealistic and it’s how people get robbed or lose things,” sophomore Alexandra Lewis said.

Additionally, many students felt that the increase of security alters and adds tension to the atmosphere of many games. Although every student enjoys the luxury of safety and security, many students find themselves having a better experience under more lenient surveillance.

The police would be an okay presence, but they act threatening rather than protective. Once, I was just standing and drinking soda, and a cop stared at me for at least a minute. I was not sure why, but I know it made me a little uneasy and apprehensive about going to more of these games,” senior Sarah Nikaj said.

However, due to the general consensus that the security level has a positive impact, MSD will continue to strive towards keeping all students and attendees safe and secure, despite the inconveniences to fans that come with maintaining advanced security measures. Ultimately, having time-consuming security measures is a price that administration and attendees are willing to pay to maintain public safety.

“Anything that makes an event and its spectator feel more secure here on campus, and anything we can do to make the game experience better is definitely a good thing,” Winans said. “We are going to do whatever we can so people can come here and feel safe.”

As the 2021-2022 school year progresses, the MSD Eagles’ fans will continue to attend sports events as they show their school spirit and support. Due to the school’s uphold of security protocols, these fans will be able to do so with their safety and security maintained.