School News, Sports

Athletic & school officials say unruly crowds cleared from Paw Paw game “wasn’t typical”

Morgan County school officials and law enforcement say they’ve continued to handle a heated spectator situation that erupted late last month at Paw Paw High School.

Spectators at the Wednesday, January 31 Paw Paw High School varsity boys’ basketball game with Pendleton County were removed from the game in the fourth quarter to allow student athletes to continue their play undisrupted following the actions of several unruly adults.

The entire audience was made to leave the gymnasium towards the end of the game while the two teams played the remainder of the game without any fans present.

Athletic director

Paw Paw High School athletic director Bill Taylor said he had asked for a couple of Morgan County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Reserves to be present at the Paw Paw basketball game with Pendleton County that night because there was concern that there might be trouble.

In the fourth quarter, two fans -one from Paw Paw and one from Pendleton County – had to be escorted out of the game by police, Taylor said. A second spectator from Paw Paw was also removed from the gym towards the end of the game.

Taylor said the game was out of control and that the Potomac Valley officials didn’t have control of the game.  The crowd believed that the officials weren’t calling the game right, Taylor said. Most of the fans in the gym were yelling and getting so wound up and were being very loud.

With about four minutes left in the game, Taylor said he was very concerned about the safety of the players and the officials and made the call to clear the gym of all spectators. As athletic director, his role at sports games is taking tickets and crowd control.

Taylor said that it took a while to empty the gym.  Some people refused to leave. He ordered both teams to their locker rooms for their safety and resumed the game with just officials there once everyone was out of the gym.

Morgan County Schools Assistant Superintendent Jeromy Duelley, who oversees sports, said he wasn’t present at the game but had watched a video of it. Duelley said that three adult spectators were removed from the game.

There was nothing physical that happened to his knowledge – it was more just verbal things and yelling.   The gym was full for the game and law enforcement handled the situation.

Duelley said they and Superintendent Kristen Tuttle received a call the next morning from the Pendleton County Schools Superintendent commending them on how everything was handled at the game.

Though they’ve had issues before at Paw Paw High School home basketball games, it wasn’t typical behavior for a basketball game there, Duelley said.

School officials have a plan in place if people get unruly at sports events. People can be asked not to attend sporting events.

Sports attendance policy

Duelley shared Policy 9160-Public Attendance at School Events which states that the Morgan County Board of Education has a duty to maintain order and preserve its facilities during school events.

“The Board holds the legal authority to bar the attendance of or remove any person whose conduct may constitute a disruption at a school event. School administrators have the authority to call law enforcement officials if a person violates posted regulations or does not leave school property when requested,” according to the policy.  The policy is also listed on the Morgan County Schools website.

No charges are being brought by the school system over what happened at the game, Duelley said.  Paw Paw High School had a home game on February 6 with no issues, said.

Duelley said they were working with the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department and the West Virginia State Police to have law enforcement there at the games.

Duelley said the varsity basketball season is pretty much done for Paw Paw at this point.  There is one more home game on February 22 with Legacy Christian Academy from Parkersburg.

Morgan County Sheriff’s Deputy Chuck Hess, the new Morgan County Schools Prevention Resource Officer, is working as a liaison between the schools and the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department over the situation.  Hess also reviewed video from the game.

Hess said that some spectators were upset over the referee calls and the situation was tense in the gym.  He also noted that someone came onto the floor during the game, which is not allowed.

Morgan County Sheriff K.C. Bohrer said that the school has had issues with parents at basketball games where deputies had to respond and break up conflicts. No trespassing paperwork has been filed against several parents who can’t come to games anymore and are only allowed on school ground to pick up or drop off their students.

Policy read at prior game

Taylor said that the Policy 9160 had been read at a previous game with Harman High School with Paw Paw Schools Principal Melinda Kasekamp and the Harmon Principal present.  All the same people were there for that game and were aware of the policy, which Taylor said was implemented to keep things from getting out of hand and physical at games.

Taylor noted that Paw Paw is a basketball town and that it was important to keep things under control at games and to err on the side of safety.

Taylor thought some people believed he could do something about what was happening in the game, but he couldn’t.  As athletic director he has no control over what happens in a game.

Taylor said law enforcement would be present at the last Paw Paw High School home game.