School Board approves fan ejection policy

Fan misconduct has been on an uptick since the pandemic. On Monday, the Moore County School Board approved a policy that makes fans responsible for fines should they be ejected from a local school sporting event. | File Photo

By Tabitha Evans Moore | EDITOR & PUBLISHER

LOCAL NEWS | Moore County’s been known to produce a “passionate” fan base and on Monday night, the Moore County School Board unanimously approved a new policy at the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s (TSSAA) nudging to address unruly fan behavior. Should referees eject a member of Raider Nation from a local sporting event, that fan will need to write the school system a $250 check.

The new policy is a local clarification to a system-wide rules change the TSSAA’s Legislative Council approved during a special-called meeting back in July regarding unsportsmanlike conduct by fans at school sporting events.

According to the new TSSAA rule, if a fan is ejected from a school sporting event, the school will be fined a minimum of $250 and that fan may be restricted from attending future games. There were already rules in place prohibiting fans from entering a playing field or court during a game. To view the 2023-24 TSSAA bylaws, click here.

At the time, TSSAA officials stated that a marked increase in fan misconduct since the COVID-19 pandemic inspired the new rule. There were over 700 fan ejections at high school sporting events in 2022-23, according to the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA), and the $250 fine is meant to discourage that number from rising while giving existing rules a little more teeth.

Board change makes fan responsible for unsportsmanlike fines

The Board’s addition to the TSSAA policy includes language that requires the fan to reimburse the school system for any unsportsmanlike fine or face possible barring from local athletic events.

In anticipation of the rules change, local school officials attended work sessions explaining what does and does not constitute fan conduct worthy of ejection. They include directing profane language at a referee, continuing to harp on a perceived missed call, or creating a situation that could become dangerous for other fans or student athletes.

The fine is per occurrence meaning that a particularly mouthy fan or a group of fans could mount multiple $250 fines. Should multiple infractions happen in the same game, schools and fans could rack up a hefty bill.

The TSSAA allowed schools to create their own conduct rules regarding athletic events and Director of School Chad Moorehead suggested language to the local school board policy preventing a fan – especially a parent of an athlete – from being forced to miss multiple games.

“If any spectator, whether student or adult, behaves in a manner that results in TMSAA/TSSAA imposing a fine on the school for unruly behavior, then any such person shall be required to reimburse the board the amount of the fine and may be subject to a suspension from attending extracurricular activities for a specified period of time. Failure to reimburse the board will result in a continued suspension from any and all Moore County Schools extracurricular activities for the remainder of the school year or until such fine has been reimbursed,” the policy reads.

The addition of that “may be” means that a fan suspension is up to school officials and not automatic.

“The proposed policy changes the language to may require rather than does require a suspension and also allows us to limit it for a specified period of time instead of having a board policy that lays out a time,” Director Moorehead explained to the Board. “In the last meeting, there was talk about if an official makes a mistake. There is also an appeals process in place where the fine could be retracted.”

Director Moorehead stated during the meeting that he was aware of at least one case in which the fan and school system appealed the ejection and TSSAA officials used game film to determine that referees mistakenly ejected the wrong fan.

“That gives you some leeway too if there’s an appeals process that the parent or spectator doesn’t miss a ton of games waiting on a decision to be made on that appeal,” stated Moore County School Board Chairperson Tanya Vann. “The may be subject gives you a little gray area to deal with the situation.”

All five board members were present for the meeting. Tanya Vann, Greg Thompson, Nathan Buchanan, Ed Cashion, and Jamie Cashion all voted in favor of the school board policy change. The Tennessee School Board Association (TSBA) will review the policy online and let the Board know if they have any concerns with the policy, according to Director Moorehead. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only locally-owned and locally-operated community newspaper in Lynchburg, Tennessee and one of the few women-owned newspaper in the state. We are 100 percent reader-supported and never use AI-generated stories. You can support us by subscribing.}