Portage Area updates policy for spectators

PORTAGE — Students, parents and other spectators misbehaving at school-related events will have to appear before Portage Area School Board members, who will hand down punishments, per a policy revision passed Wednesday evening.

Then, board members voted unanimously to revise an existing spectator policy, which was described as “vague.”

The revision sets up a protocol that will be followed each time a spectator acts inappropriately and is removed from an event, Superintendent Eric Zelanko said.

“Basically what it says is if a fan or spectator is removed by a school official … they are suspended until board action, until they come before the board,” Zelanko said.

Board Vice President Kathy Hough said she asked for a policy revision because she was aware of several circumstances in which differing punishments were doled out to spectators who misbehaved in a similar way.

“I felt that we did not have a policy,” Hough said. “Every case was handled differently.”

Now, the policy will ensure every case is handled properly, protecting both spectators and the board, Hough said, explaining it decreases the potential for special treatment and conflicts of interest.

“Now it’s in black-and-white, and that’s how it’s going to be,” she said.

Under the revision, spectators who are removed from an event for misbehaving will be sent a certified letter, informing them that they must appear before school board members.

When they appear, they will have an opportunity to plead their cases to board members, who will then assign a punishment, Hough said, describing the process as hearing-like. Possible punishments were not discussed at the Wednesday meeting.

Hough said there have been three or four incidents in recent memory that would have been better resolved by the new procedure.

In each of those cases, she said, different punishments were assigned.

“I feel that it has to be handled equally,” Hough said.

The policy revision was approved by board members without further discussion.

Mirror Staff Writer Sean Sauro is at 946-7535.