Citing police fears that students have been sneaking alcoholic beverages into high school football games, Rock Hill school officials on Friday announced a ban on backpacks and all outside food and drinks.
The ban – which applies both to District Three Stadium and District Three South Stadium – will go into effect Sept. 19, when Northwestern plays South Pointe at District Three Stadium.
By banning outside food and beverages, the rules at Rock Hill’s stadiums now match those in place at stadiums in Clover, York and Fort Mill high schools. Rock Hill is the only York County school district that will have a backpack ban.
The decision came after the Rock Hill Police Department earlier this week asked the athletic directors of all three Rock Hill high schools to implement the ban.
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“Recent trends have shown that there are students bringing alcoholic beverages into athletic events at the two stadiums,” police Lt. James Grayson wrote in a letter to the athletic directors.
Students disguise the alcohol as normal beverages and conceal them in their backpacks or other bags, said Grayson, who works in the department’s Community Services Unit.
There hasn’t been a rash of incidents or a spike in arrests for issues like this, police spokesman Mark Bollinger said, but officers who patrol the stadiums during games are trying to be proactive.
“This is something they’ve observed in the past,” Bollinger said. “We heard this was going on and wanted to keep it from happening in the future.”
Starting next week, anyone who arrives at the stadiums with an outside food or beverage will be asked to consume it before entering the gate, according to the guidelines, which were approved by the high schools’ athletic directors and principals and associate superintendent Luanne Kokolis at a meeting on Thursday.
Concessions will still be available inside the stadiums.
If someone arrives at the gate with a backpack, they will be asked to put it in a car before entering the stadium. If that isn’t possible, the person can open the bag to show the contents to the gate attendant and be advised of the rule. That person will not be allowed to bring in a bag at another event.
The rule notes that “ladies’ purses, adults with seat cushions/blanket holders, diaper bags, medications, or food needed for those with medical conditions” are exempt from this policy.
Kokolis brought up the issue at Monday’s school board meeting.
Board members generally expressed support for the enhanced security measures, but acknowledged exceptions would need to be made in certain circumstances. They deferred to the athletic directors, principals and Kokolis to decide what the rule should look like.
“We need to move as fast as we can,” board member Walter Brown said Monday.
Board members also acknowledged the new rules would need to be clearly communicated and that undoubtedly some will complain about them.
Over the next week, school officials plan to aggressively get the word out to students, parents and other fans. Announcements were scheduled for Friday night’s home football games and the district will make use of social media, phone calls to parents and students, and signs at the stadiums to make people aware of the new rules.