The Bear Creek versus Lincoln football game on Sept. 13, with a near-record crowd of approximately 2,000 students according to Principal Hillary Harrell, should have been a fun, spirited experience for everyone involved — but the event turned violent when multiple fights erupted, raising concerns regarding the dangers of attending high school football games.
Aaron Fonzi, who leads Christa McAuliffe’s music program, sent out a social media post at 5:00 p.m. to his students who were to perform that night at the game. The post said the rumors of a gun were unsubstantiated and their performance would go as planned.
“Had I known that [gun threats were being made], I would have cancelled the game,” Harrell said.
While no weapon was found, that didn’t stop multiple fights from breaking out during and after the game, both in the stadium and the Bear Creek parking lot.
According to the Stockton Police Department, dozens of SPD units were dispatched to the school, where 11 arrests were made, including eight students from various high schools. But it wasn’t just students getting into fights: three adults aged 42, 26 and 18 were among those arrested.
Afterward, students and staff members alike cried out for policy changes to be enacted for the increased safety of everyone involved in football games.
Some staff members argue that Bear Creek simply doesn’t have the infrastructure to support the large number of attendees. Bear Creek Athletic Director Jason Johnson says that he has concerns about inadequate infrastructure and security.
“We need to hire several more campus supervisors and have them posted in an easily identifiable uniform at the base of the home crowd, two in the home snack bar area, and three for the guest side and snack bar,” Johnson said.
Johnson pointed out that because Bear Creek only has four campus supervisors total, it needs to hire private security to supervise games.
Harrell says that steps are being taken to ensure games are safer for all students.
“We will be updating our procedures for our football games, and we will update parents and students on new policies prior to our next football game,” Harrell said in a phone call home to all Bear Creek families.
Many students say that despite the events that occurred, they will continue to show their support at football games.
“I will still attend games because of [the] positive and fun things that happen in the Creek Crazies area, but I will be more aware and cautious during football games, especially when leaving,” junior Russell Sunio said.
Other students have expressed their hopes that Friday’s situation was a one-time deal.
“Hopefully, [Friday night] is the last time something like this is going to happen because I plan to go to as many games as I can because this is my senior year,” senior Amritpreet Mahal said.
While some students say that the fights won’t affect their attendance of future games, other students and parents say that they will be less likely to attend football games in the future.
“I personally wouldn’t feel safe attending games in the future, especially because Bear Creek didn’t shut the game down after it got rowdy and dangerous,” junior Ariel Good said.
Bear Creek junior Deepika Sahota says she was pushed to the ground during one of the earlier fights.
“I was walking back from the bathroom and happened to walk right through where the fight was starting,” Sahota said. “My friends got out of the way, but I was pushed to the ground. We were all really scared because we didn’t know what was going on or if we were going to get hit.”
Some parents are also hesitant to send their children to football games alone.
“I told my teenage daughter who was with me that she will never go to a game without an adult,” parent Sunshine Hollingsworth-Kellogg said in a comment on Facebook, noting the number of students she witnessed smoking and drinking.
“Friday night football should be a family event,” Bear Creek parent Sara Maynard said in an interview with Fox 40 on September 14. “You know, it should be for the kids. They practice hard, they want to play. They play their hearts out and the focus should be on the game, not our safety as to what’s going on around us.”
For some, this public brawl, following the one in May where videos of a flying trashcan went viral, is an embarrassment to students and staff.
“This is both sad and embarrassing for our campus,” Johnson said. “Even though Bear Creek students were not the sole instigators of issues, the events of Friday night are a reflection of our school and our students.”