Rome Free Academy Students Start Petition Over Cheering Section Move
At football games this year, the RFA student section will be sitting with parents and other fans, instead of a separate section as they have for years. It's a move that has some of the students upset.
Brianna Wheeler, a student at RFA says students at RFA have always had their own cheering section, away from parents and little kids, where they could be "rowdy and not have to worry about bumping into little kids. We also do orange dust for our homecoming and not many parents want that on them (because) it ruins your clothes if you don’t have dark colors on." Brianna says the explanation they were given for the change was the cost of security for the two sections. She says she's reached out to Superintendent Peter Blake via email but has not heard back.
Another student, Emily Brown, started an online petition on Change.org which has already gained 2,293 signatures. "We as students are begging just to have (the student section) back, that’s what makes us as a student body come together to support our teams."
Some students have also expressed concerns over the safety of the cheerleading squad who have stayed closer to the parent side due to food and drinks allegedly being thrown at them from the student side. According to Brianna, "Last year the kids were quite harsh to cheerleaders. They were always throwing food and drinks at them."
Rome District Superintendent responded to an email about the decision:
I am not involved with this decision, other than supporting the decision of the group of individuals who have to manage the facility during events. The facts are that behavior in the grandstand of spectators and students who never sit in the student section is causing significant safety and security issues. With 75% of the adult supervision required to be on the opposite side of the field to tend to the student section, there is no way to address grandstand behavior. A large group of people (RFA administration, athletic department, security staff, Rome PD staff, and football staff) met to discuss the best way to improve the safety and security of the facility so that everyone there can enjoy themselves, and this was the option they suggested. I defer these decisions to the people who actually have to do the work. In this case, the folks that have to physically manage the crowd and provide a safe environment thought that this was the best option given the declining decorum of our general spectators. If the group that made the initial request to move the student section changes course, then I will support that decision as well. At this point, they are aware of the concerns and are speaking to the students to come to a solution that everyone understands and ultimately provides a safe/secure venue for our games.
What do you think? Should the students have their own cheering section? Should the district consolidate the home section to make it easier to police?