With school about to return to session, Charleston County School District (CCSD) is ramping up its security at sporting events district-wide. For the 2019-20 school year, all spectators at football and basketball games sanctioned under the South Carolina High School League (SCHSL) will be subject to the "clear bag or no bag" entry procedure.
The decision to expand the procedure stems from CCSD's pilot program in August 2018, in which they tested the clear bag policy on solely Wando High School football games at the District 2 Regional Stadium. Now, their initiative will encompass 87 schools and approximately 50,000 students.
"The 'clear bag or no bag' entry procedure is the best practice we see being implemented across athletic venues, especially at the professional and collegiate level and it's starting to make its way into the high school athletic realm," said Michael Reidenbach, CCSD’s director of security and emergency management.
CCSD's neighboring school district, Berkeley County, put the same policy in place a year prior in the fall of 2017.
Last week, Reidenbach reasoned that CCSD is narrowing their focus on the two particular sports is because they are the two most heavily-attended events. He noted crowd size was one of the driving forces behind the district's risk assessment that prompted them to progress the initiative.
Another factor in selecting which sporting events was the amount of staff on-hand. Reidenbach said football and basketball contests always have an abundance of ticket-takers and public safety personnel monitoring the games
The safety measure officially goes into effect the first day of school in Charleston County, which is one week away, Aug. 21. It will apply to all level of SCHSL contests in the two sports (i.e. varsity, junior varsity, modified).
Every spectator is allowed to carry one clear tote bag that cannot exceed 12-inches by 6-inches by 12-inches. A small clutch or wallet can also be carried in to the stadium by hand or within the clear bag if it does not exceed 4.5-inches by 6.5-inches.
Other small permissible items such as keys, wallets, cell phones, credit cards and cash may be carried in a pocket or by hand. Prohibited items include: weapons, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, electronic cigarettes, outside food and drinks, laser pointers and non-service animals.
CCSD contends that implementing such a procedure will make it quicker and easier for school staff members and on-site law enforcement officers to identify prohibited items and reduce the likelihood of contraband entering the stadium.
Economically, as far as future ticket sales are concerned, Reidenbach is confident that expanding the clear bag policy will not deter future admission rates. He bases this assumption off of last year's pilot program that was rolled out with "very little fanfare" and without any negative impact on attendance.
"Those who attend our athletic events we feel like are already attending other sporting events, whether it be the collegiate or professional level or even at high school events outside our county who have a procedure like this," Reidenbach continued. "It was something that people adapted to very, very quickly."
Wando's Athletic Director Bob Hayes noted there was no substantial difference in attendance between the 2017 and 2018 Wando football seasons, before and after the clear bag policy when into effect.
"I've looked back at our records and I keep a rough estimate of what we're bringing in each fall. Put it this way, the rain is a bigger financial deterrent than clear bags," Hayes added.
Re-entry will not be permitted for individuals who leave the stadium after receiving clearance to enter. If a child is not a high school student, they must be accompanied by a responsible guardian while attending an event at the stadium.
"I think that all of our spectators understand the times in which we live and they appreciate the fact the district is evolving its campus safety plan to make our events more safe and enjoyable for everyone who attends," Reidenbach added.
Reidenbach speculated it's a possibility that the procedure could expand across more or all sports-related events in the future depending on the findings during the assessment process.
Clear bags with athletics logos will be available on a school-by-school basis. Contact individual high schools about cost and where to purchase the totes.
Furthermore, this school year will be the first full year of implementation for CCSD’s Random Search Program. Although this program is primarily used in high schools, some components may also be seen in middle schools. All searches of individuals and their personal belongings selected are based on a pre-determined, systematic pattern or guideline.