The rivalry between two California high schools was so heated during the 2018-19 football and basketball seasons that an unusual precaution has been taken of banning students from attending all spring events involving the two schools.
The only exception to the ban is if a family member is competing in the event, according to a joint statement released by the principals of Los Gatos and Palo Alto high schools.
"For the last few years or so there have been tensions with both the Los Gatos fan base and Palo Alto fan base," Palo Alto athletic director Therren Wilburn said Monday, as reported by The Mercury News in San Jose. "So collaboratively we've tried to have measures in place prior to games, administrators from both sides sending out positive reinforcement to the student bodies and the fan bases.
"But it just hasn’t been working."
During a basketball game in February, an object was tossed on the court as a Palo Alto player was at the free throw line, prompting Los Gatos athletic director Ken Perrotti to implore his school's students over the public-address system to clean up their act. The tension between students spilled out into the parking lot after the game.
"There has been a bunch of ongoing issues between student bodies," Perrotti told The Mercury News. "It has really been building over the last couple of years. Student safety was coming into question. We were trying to be as proactive as possible. It is not every single kid. It is the action of a few. Both student bodies are responsible for what has transpired."
In addition to no students at athletic contests this spring, the schools will hold a "Positive Sportsmanship Summit" April 29 at a neutral site — Fremont High in Sunnyvale — that will include roughly 20 student-athlete leaders, the athletic directors, Santa Clara Valley Athletic League commissioner Brad Metheany and Central Coast Section commissioner Duane Morgan. The goal, according to the principals' statement, is to "work toward an alliance between our schools to promote and ensure positive sportsmanship and respectful behavior at all future contests between our schools."
There will be repercussions for "egregious and/or unsafe social media postings from our students that incite or aggravate tensions between our schools prior to athletic contests. Students who commit such acts may forfeit the right to attend any and all future contests," the statement adds. Coaches, athletic directors and administrators from the schools will stay in touch as they prepare for athletic contests starting in the 2019-20 school year.
"In conversations I've had with individual students, they all have a different perspective about why they enjoy the Los Gatos rivalry, so I think getting 10 different opinions about the rivalry, it will actually get a genuine answer from the students and you’ll get some honest feedback," Wilburn said. "And I think that it may be candid, blunt and raw, but I think that's what both sides need to hear in order to repair this relationship we have with Los Gatos."