New regulations on fan behavior enforced
Amherst Regional High School was criticized for its fan behavior at a girls varsity soccer game on September 23 against Holyoke. Receiver of Holyoke Public Schools Dr. Stephen Zrike alleged that Amherst students used racial slurs and excessive taunting to insult the Holyoke goalkeeper, among other members of the soccer team.
The incident was brought to the attention of ARHS Principal Mark Jackson.
He responded promptly to the allegations, conducting an investigation involving interviews with the referees who officiated the game, the police officer on duty at the game, the four members of the event staff, and 10 ARHS students.
He concluded while there was considerable evidence of inappropriate fan behavior, there was an insufficient amount of evidence to corroborate the claim that racial slurs were used.
Mr. Jackson immediately communicated the results to the Holyoke School DiAstrict.
Mr. Jackson immediately enacted framework in response to the incident, in order to define the limits of fan behavior.
“I don’t care what other schools do,” Mr. Jackson said, “We need to set a bar for ourselves. One of our key goals is to stop verbal abuse before it happens.”
Mr. Jackson’s framework pushes fans to cheer for their teams, not against the other team, embodying the principle of “for, not against.”
He said calling out the other team and officials and referring to them “lousy” or any synonyms is prohibited. Whether his policies will be accepted by ARHS fans is a question of time.
As of Amherst homecoming week, Mr. Jackson has said “fans seem broadly compliant,” while acknowledging. “It’s still too early to tell.”
Amherst Junior Becky Caraker, who is on the girls’ varsity soccer team, was upset about the claims against ARHS. “I could hear all that was said. It was normal high school fan talk,” she said.
She was bothered that the complaint made it into the news.
Caraker also said that she views Amherst as “one of the most accepting and united schools in Western Mass.”