When our students, staff and families attend Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools events they come with an expectation that they will have fun, enjoy a great game, perhaps see an excellent performance. I know I do. I recently went to a football game after being invited by a student I met at Chick-fil-A and I had a great time.
But what if that game had been interrupted? What if something scary happened?
In recent weeks, inappropriate and disruptive behavior has marred some of our athletic events. Fights involving students and parents broke out at two Friday night football games. It has to stop! I do not want anyone to fear for their safety, to wonder if they will leave the school gym or the bleachers bruised and battered. But, that is exactly what has been happening at several of our events and we are not going to tolerate it any more.
My daughters attend Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and as a parent, as their mother, not as the superintendent, I have a level of expectation that when they enter a learning environment and spend time with peers, they do so in a safe space. The disruptive actions of a few are an embarrassment and unacceptable.
Disruptive behavior at CMS events has consequences. Adults or non-CMS students who participate in fights and threatening behavior may face consequences, including arrest. Students who behave inappropriately at any event may face disciplinary action as defined by the Code of Student Conduct. They could be suspended, which means losing learning time. No parent wants that for their child.
Education is key to a brighter future, and just one day lost from the classroom can set a student back. I want our students to use their words, to talk about what is troubling them. I don’t want them to behave badly to get the attention they seek to fix a problem.
What happened to talking through our differences? Why aren’t we pausing before thinking about hurting someone? Why are we so ready to challenge someone into submission to show that we are right and they are wrong?
When my daughters were little, there would be moments when one would complain “she’s touching me” or “she took my toy.” As a mom I would diffuse the situation, change the focus, stop the negative behavior before it could go any further. When we are dealing with teens and adults it’s harder to stop a disruption, but it’s something we all need to try to do for the sake of our children, our schools.
This disruptive behavior we have seen at recent football games is not the behavior we should be displaying. Being disruptors is not who we are and it’s not who we want our children to be.
If one of my daughters came home from a football game and told me about an act that made her feel uncomfortable or afraid, I as a mother would want to protect her. I would want to show her that what she witnessed was an anomaly, that we are all good people who want to show kindness to others.
We must all work together to stop bad behavior at our CMS events. Excitement and adrenaline may be fueling us when we cheer on our favorite teams, but we must reaffirm our commitment to the safety and security of our students, staff and families which is only possible with everyone’s support.
I don’t want to see another football game, another soccer game, or another basketball game stop because of disruption. Our athletes deserve the cheers of adoring fans, not outbursts that end in the clearing of stands or the delay of games. More games are coming this Friday night under the lights. Homecoming dances are happening. Let’s make them all be safe, fun events. I ask that parents talk to their children about good behavior. I ask that our parents and community members be good role models for our students, showing exemplary behavior at events where there are cheers and applause and not jeers or angry words.
This Friday night let’s all team up to show the best of CMS and support our athletes in a positive way.
Crystal Hill is superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.