York City to increase security at Small Field

Alyssa Jackson
  • York City's school board voted favorably on a number of proposed changes for security related to football games.
  • Earlier in the week, Superintendent Eric Holmes decided to move all games to Saturday afternoons.
  • The decisions came after a shooting at Small Athletic Field during a game two weeks ago.

William Penn's football team had a new coach to boast of, new measures to increase academics for athletes — and a pretty big crowd at their first home game of the season.

They also had a shooting.

Because of this, York City School District's school board voted at Wednesday's meeting to approve a number of measures to increase security at Small Athletic Field. All proposed security measures were approved. Earlier in the week, Superintendent Eric Holmes had made the executive decision to hold all future football games on Saturday afternoons rather than Friday nights.

Wednesday evening, the school board voted on these measures, which included moving football games to Saturday afternoons, rather than holding them on Friday nights under the lights. Other measures proposed were a monitoring station where security camera footage could be viewed and increasing security staff from 16 school police and faculty members to 26, adding contracted personnel.

Proposal: Move York High games to Saturday at noon

At the Sept. 12 meeting, Holmes said the district would continue to employ its screening process, which includes metal detectors and bag checking procedures.

The meeting: Action items A-E on the agenda included the proposed security measures with costs from the cost-analysis report Holmes sent the school board Friday. All action items were approved together except for the last, which would approve a mobile York City Police unit to patrol the parking lot in addition to one sheriff.

The proposals included additional cameras, wiring and other upgrades to the surveillance camera system, which would not exceed $13,000, upgrading network connectivity at Small Athletic Field, which would not exceed $600, and the purchase of additional radios for Small Athletic Field, not to exceed $4,500. A complete list of the action items can be found in the agenda, which is posted online.

Sandra Thompson, president of York's NAACP chapter, spoke to the board during the first public comment section. Thompson was concerned about the action item that would authorize the superintendent to use a York City Police mobile unit to patrol the parking lot for added security. She said she was concerned about the interactions between police and young black males and also said that seeing police everywhere they go could further the schoolyard-to-prison-yard pipeline.

Board member Michael Breeland responded that if there were any concern regarding how the increased police presence might upset children, he would not be in favor of it. Breeland said he is primarily concerned about students and community members feeling safe at the field.

"If the police presence was going to be detrimental for the psyche of the children, I wouldn’t approve it," Breeland said. "But we need to keep our school safe and the attendees safe."

Board member James Sawor asked that the agenda item be discussed and voted on separately. Sawor said he was against moving football games to Saturday afternoons because police presence in the city is higher on Friday nights. He said the decision to move games to Saturdays and taking away from the already short-staffed weekend patrols could make for more unsafe situations.

Board member Juanita Kirkland agreed, echoing her sentiments from the previous board meeting.

"I think that we do have responsible citizens in our community that would be willing to step up," Kirkland said. "I do not agree with having firearms brought onto the property. I just don’t think we need to bring more guns into the situation. With the way our environment is today, it’s hard to determine and it's hard to control how somebody is going to use that firearm."

Holmes further explained the action item, saying the mobile unit would be patrolling the parking lot of Small Athletic Field and coordinating with the school police, who would be inside the facility. Holmes said the price was unknown because discussions are ongoing.

The action item was ultimately approved 7-2, with Kirkland and Sawor both voting "no."

The shooting: Two men, Darius Allen, 23, of York City, and Antwan Jackson, 20, of the York area were shot in the parking lot outside Small Athletic Field after being removed from the Sept. 9 home game by security. Allen was struck once in the abdomen and Jackson was struck once in the back.

Using security-camera footage, the police alleged that Stephon Damieen Brown, 15, was the shooter at the game. Brown has not been located. He faces two counts of aggravated assault, a single count each of carrying a firearm without a license, possession of a firearm by a minor and three counts of criminal mischief, according to charging documents.

He also faces 2,000 counts — one count each for the estimated attendance inside Small Athletic Field the night of the shooting — of reckless endangerment. Lt. Troy Bankert of the York City Police Department has said that Brown is a suspect in several other shootings around the city.

Suspect sought in York High football game shooting

The shooting resulted in a 20-minute lockdown, after which the game was called and everyone was sent home. Per policy, York City School District Police do not carry firearms, and York City school board President Margie Orr has said that will not change. However, the additional security staff will be armed and stationed in the parking lot to be a visible deterrent to future violence, according to School Police Chief Michael Muldrow.