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The Press Enterprise
October 6, 2013, Sunday
MAINNEWS; Pg. A1
|ID REQUIRED TO ATTEND HEMET FOOTBALL GAMES
CRAIG SHULTZ STAFF WRITER [email protected]
Looking to ensure safety at school events, officials are requiring anyone who attends a football game at a Hemet high school this fall to show a valid identification card before entering.
Those who don't will be turned away.
The rule is being enforced by the Hemet Unified School District as a way to try to keep troublemakers out of games at Hemet, Tahquitz and West Valley high schools, said Lucy Dressel, the district's director of safety, benefits and risk management.
The requirement applies to all adults and students from both the home and visiting schools.
"There are going to be certain individuals who are going to be deterred," Dressel said. "Individuals who are up to no good normally don't want to show ID."
The policy was not triggered by an incident, officials said. The goal is to make sure students and visitors safe, they say.
"There was no particular incident from us," West Valley Principal Alex Ballard said. "We just want to be mindful and create a safe environment for everybody."
Hemet's demographics have changed from a largely retirement-age community to a mixed ethnic community over the past 20 years. Crime rates have gone up and the police chief has enacted a plan to cut both crime and the fear of it by the end of 2014.
Insisting on ID will ensure that authorities know who everyone is if there is trouble, Dressel said.
"We want to make sure individuals coming in have ID and are who they say they are," she said. "It's an extra step to properly identify (people) as they come into the arena."
Ballard said the policy means the district is taking steps to avoid trouble before it occurs.
"People who have (bad) intentions may not want to come in," he said. "If someone trusts me with their kids, I have to ensure they're safe."
The school district is developing a formal policy, which will go before the school board on Tuesday, Oct. 8.
The policy would go beyond just football games.
"The Governing Board in its efforts to provide safe and regulated venues at all school or district events is hereby requiring all students and adults to possess valid identification as a condition for admittance to said venues (including but not limited to all athletic contests, school-sponsored dances, concerts, plays, musical performances, ASB events, club events, class activities, etc.,)" the proposed policy states.
The California penal code states that school administrators can remove anyone from campus for cause. Failure to leave is a misdemeanor and can lead to a fine or imprisonment.
Dressel said Hemet is following "quite a few" other districts in requiring the identification.
But a poll of a handful of Inland districts found that Hemet is the only one with such a policy.
Administrators from the San Jacinto, Murrieta, Temecula, Perris Union, San Bernardino and Colton districts said they do not require ID checks at football games.
"We have no such policy or plans to put something in place at this time," said Steve Swartz, of the Perris Union High School District.
Rick Peoples, spokesman for the Riverside County Office of Education, said he is not aware of similar policies at other districts.
Thurston High School in Redford, Mich., started requiring students to show an ID to attend football games last month, after shots were fired as fans were leaving a game.
Dressel said the policy is an extension of the state law that requires anyone who visits a campus to show identification.
During the school day, visitor's ID cards are scanned through LobbyGuard, a system that checks names against the national sex offenders' database.
At games, identification cards are looked at, but not run through any system. As long as someone has a valid ID, they will be admitted, Dressel said.
The policy also calls for bags to be checked at the gate and forbids re-entry to anyone who leaves the stadium. Ballard said people often are turned away at the gate if they are carrying alcohol or other banned items.
The state education code requires the Department of Education to create guidelines to help districts create a safe school environment, information officer Tina Jung said.
Districts take the guidelines to their local police departments to create safety plans for their schools, Jung wrote in an email
"Bottom line: It's a local decision. If a school wants to check IDs at an extracurricular activity, it can," she wrote.
Fans entering Hemet High's Sept. 27 game against Moreno Valley didn't seem to mind having to show their identification.
"They can ask for my ID, they can ask my age, they can ask what I had for dinner. There's no problem whatsoever," said Bill Woodie, who has been attending Hemet High football games since the 1950s.
"I don't mind (showing my ID) if it makes it safer," Brad Stockton said.
When purchasing tickets, fans were told they would have to show their ID at the gate, but were not given a reason why, they said.
"We were really shocked," said Christian Ruddell, a former Hemet High athlete. "I've been going to games for years and this is the first time I've had to show anything. As long as it makes it safer, I'm OK with it."
Dressel said some people chose not to attend West Valley's home game on Sept. 20 when they were asked to show their ID, and that was just fine with her.
While there were some grumbles at the game sites, no one called her office to complain, she said.
The policy was tested at all three high schools during the past two weeks. Because it was not yet a formal policy, those lacking IDs were not sent away, though some left on their own.
Enforcement figures to get tougher when the Hemet schools start playing each other. Those games draw larger crowds and officials will be less likely to bend the rules.
School administrators and staff members routinely attend high school football games, along with security guards. Hemet police officers patrol at Tahquitz and West Valley and Riverside County sheriff deputies cover Hemet High, which is outside city limits.
Hemet High is at Tahquitz on Friday, Oct. 18, and at West Valley the following week. West Valley is at Tahquitz on Oct. 25.
Dressel said teams that that will be visiting Hemet will be contacted and asked to tell their fans to bring IDs to the games.
Jeff Snyder, longtime athletic director at San Jacinto High, which plays at Hemet on Nov. 8, said the policy was brought up at a Mountain Pass League meeting, but a formal notice has not been delivered.
Follow Craig Shultz on Twitter @PE_CraigShultz and online at blog.pe.com/author/cshultz
October 6, 2013