Saline Athletic Department Hopes to Loosen Grip on Student Section in January

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The student section that cheered on the Hornets Dec. 7 was credited by players and coaches for helping their team. But on Dec. 10, the student section that showed up at Bedford for the Saline boys' game was removed from the game by officials.

Earlier this week, the Saline High School announced that, due to recent misbehavior at sporting events, students would be prohibited from attending sporting events unless they are accompanied by a legal guardian. The order is in effect until Jan. 8.

The misbehavior occurred Dec. 10 at Bedford High School, where the boys' varsity team beat Bedford in overtime.

Officials from the Bedford High School Athletic Department did not return our email. According to Saline interim Athletic Director Anna Britnell, several members of the Saline student section were removed from the game in the first half of the contest. In the second half, the entire remaining Saline student section was removed from the game. Britnell said the students used vulgarities that would never be allowed in school to directly insult members of the Bedford team.

"Midway through the third quarter, it had gotten so bad, that the official stopped the game and removed the entire student section," Britnell sai.

Britnell and district administration spent time Friday and over the weekend dealing with the issue. Britnell and Assistant Principal Joe Palka devised the plan for the temporary ban of students without a guardian.

Britnell said she hopes the action helps "reset" the culture of the student section. There had been issues in the student section during the football season. Issues continued when Britnell replaced AD Andrew Parrish, who resigned before Thanksgiving. Britnell said students had been removed from hockey and basketball games before the Bedford game.

"It's something that's really been a culture thing that's been building here. It does not portray any form of sportsmanship or positive culture that represents what we're about in Saline," Britnell said. "It is not something that I would want my elementary-age children to ever experience or witness."

Britnell said extra-curricular activities are an extension of the classroom.

"Whether we're at Hornet Stadium, down in Bedford or across the street at Pioneer, we want to represent ourselves well in a positive manner.

According to Britnell, the rowdy student section captured the attention of the officials, the Athletic Director and a police officer at the game. A source told the Saline Post that one of the students talked back to a police officer and was fortunate not to be arrested.

Several offending students were suspended from extra-curricular activities, Britnell said.

Superintendent Steve Laatsch said he spent the weekend and Monday communicating with Bedford's superintendent. The effective pause on student sections will give the shorthanded athletic department time to devise a long-term plan to deal with the issue and give district leaders time to speak with students.

"We have put in place a pause of our organized student section in order to give SHS Administration and the Athletic Department time to develop a more comprehensive plan of supervision, protocols, and procedures," Laatsch said. "Further, we need an opportunity to talk with students about our expectations before we have the organized student section return to athletic contests. It is important to recognize that not all of our students within the student section have been behaving in this manner."

The district will not be asking schools to enforce the rule at road games, but Laatsch said the administration and athletic department will enforce the rule.

The rule should lapse after the first week of athletics action following the break.

"We fully anticipate having a great student section supporting our student-athletes in the near future," Laatsch said.

The lively student section was credited by coaches and players from the girls and boys basketball teams Jan. 7. It was the loudest the gym had been since March of 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic closed schools.

Friday, as Saline hosted Huron, there were few students in the stand, despite a call from the high school's Twitter account to attend the game.

Typically, a source said, the team does have a member of staff visible at road games, a source told The Saline Post. But the Athletic Department is still down two key employees since the exodus in November. In addition, Patti Fosdick, former SHS Dean of Students, also used to attend all the boys' varsity road games because her husband was an assistant coach. Staff visibility will be part of the plan moving forward.

In 2011, the Saline student section was removed from a football game at Huron High School At the game, the students were chased off the track that circles the football field after they were spotted trying to enter the inflatable helmet the team uses to introduce teams. The district responded with videos from coaches, band instructors, teachers and administrators, imploring students to act with pride, sportsmanship and respect.

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