A fight between a Burlington High School (BHS) student and a Champlain Valley Union High School (CVU) student at a recent soccer game sparked conversation among students, teachers, and administration about the rules regarding adult supervision at games. Jeanne Hulsen, the athletic director for BHS, said that there are no rules regarding administrative or teacher supervision of the student section at games.
“There’s professional expectation, but there’s no rules or regulations or contractual regulations or anything like that,” Hulsen said.
Bob Johnson of the Vermont Principals’ Association (VPA) said that there are rules, but few.
“The VPA requires that there’s some sort of administrative presence at a game. It could be a teacher. It could be an [athletic director]. It could be whatever,” Johnson said. “Schools understand that when they start the school year the principal signs off on a form saying they’re going to follow all the VPA rules and regulations. Again, one of them is that you should have some sort of administration there.”
Johnson also said that the amount of teacher or administrative presence necessary depends on the sport.
“The number of administrators you need for an outdoor event as compared to an indoor event can be very different. I don’t see very many administrators usually at volleyball games. On the other hand, if I’ve got Burlington and Rice playing basketball inside, I want to have as many administrators there as I can.”
Francesca Dupuis, a BHS history teacher, recently led a conversation in her Public Issues and World Affairs (PIWA) class in regards to this issue.
“I thought Public Issues was a perfect class to have the conversation with students about challenges surrounding supervision at sporting events, or dances for that matter,” Dupuis said. “[…] We talk about local, state, national, international events, and this is so very close to home that it just seemed relevant.”
Dupuis posed two questions to the class: In light of the events at the CVU vs. BHS soccer game, what can faculty and staff do at BHS to ensure your safety? and What can you do to ensure your safety and the safety of your peers?
Kevin Garrison, a BHS senior, was in that PIWA class.
“I feel like the conversation we had in Ms. Dupuis’ class should’ve definitely been a topic at community meeting for advisory. I think that would’ve been useful. […] This is a great topic to have at all of the advisories,” Garrison said.
Garrison said he feels that if the amount of supervision of the student section at games grows, then students will complain about that supervision being overbearing.
“I think we as a student body have to figure it out. Like, what do we want?,” Garrison said.
Dupuis also said that she has noticed a difference between the amount of adult supervision at games now and that of when she first began teaching at BHS in 2011.
“At the very least, as students were entering the game, teachers and administrators were visible. So, people knew that they were there. Whether or not that actually changed the dynamics of events, at least they were seen. I know that now our administrators, the past year or two anyway, when they do attend games, […] they’re actually behind the bleachers, because that is where there is more of a safety concern,” Dupuis said.
Marcel Girouard, a BHS math teacher, also said he remembers greater supervision in earlier years.
“Ten years ago, fifteen years ago, we used to have five teachers on staff at every football game and two or three teachers at every basketball game. We even had a police officer or two at every single basketball game,” Girouard said.
Girouard said that student attendance took a toll for a while, and so supervision was rolled back.
“Now that our athletic programs are doing a lot better and having a lot more success, we need to look at the policy again and maybe start having to ask more teachers to participate, and make Principal Racicot have a little more vision at these games,” Girouard said.
Lack of budget for the athletic department may be a part of why supervision is lacking.
“I know that the athletic department used to compensate teachers like myself to go to these games. […] I do think that the athletic department’s had their budget hit a little bit, so I think there’s been some budget cuts that’ve perhaps restricted the athletic department’s ability to have more vision at games. It’s hard to ask teachers to volunteer to do some of these things, especially when a fight could break out. That goes a little above and beyond what I think some of us are expected to do,” Girouard said.
Brennan Carney, a BHS history teacher and coach of the BHS varsity football team, said he feels that supervision has become even more important as of late, as many middle schoolers have attended games.
“We need supervision for middle schools because right now our Hunt and Edmunds students are coming to high schools. We have names to faces with high school students [but] we don’t know those [middle-schoolers] and they’re having a tough time with their behavior at football games,” Carney said. “I’ve just seen this. I had to call the police the other day, after the game, after everyone was gone, due to a fight amongst middle school kids. So, there’s something to be said for district wide partnership.”
Carney said that it’s necessary for there to be rules regarding supervision at games.
“There should be [rules regarding supervision]. Absolutely. It’d be nonsense for their not to be.”
Noel Green, a BHS administrator, does not feel that there is need for these rules.
“No. I don’t think so. I think that the staff does a great job of managing the crowds in regard to the ticket sales, concessions, security both on the field and off the field,” Green said. [The] stand are interesting because you want students to be able to have fun and be with their friends, and not have it be like overbearing with adults in the mix. They just want to have fun. But, I think that the mix is good right now. One of the main areas we usually watch is the back field, lots of times more things happen in the back field than in the actual stands themselves.
Dupuis has been in charge of organizing school dances for the past five years for Student Planning. She said she has been disappointed by the amount of teacher attendance at dances, as well as at games.
“I know that people have other family obligations. So, I want to be careful with this[…],” Dupuis said. “The level of teacher participation decreased, and that was difficult. It was really hard, and that’s when last year for Winter Ball I did have to put a cap on how many students could attend. […] At our homecoming dance last year, in 2016, there were over 400 kids. Not that I need a 1-10 ratio, but I definitely didn’t even have a 1-20 ratio. We had over 400 kids and that felt hectic, and if something did happen, and I didn’t have enough adult support, that’s what makes me nervous,” Dupuis said.
Dupuis said that she feels like the level of participation from teachers has been decreasing over the past few years because of the political tension between the school board and teachers.
“[It is] really unfair, because really at the end of the day it’s the students that suffer because of that,” Dupuis said.