By Elaine Weinreb
Press Staff Writer
Complaints of inappropriate behavior at high school basketball games were discussed at the Feb. 10 meeting of the Northern Humboldt Unified High School District (NHUHSD) board.
Three board members said that they had attended a game between Eureka and Arcata High Schools on Feb. 6, and were appalled by the rude behavior and profanity which they observed.
Board member Robin Marks said that she was offended by a large sign, saying “Arcata Sucks,” which was carried into the gym by an adult fan.
Board member Dan Johnson also saw the sign, and wondered why Eureka High School administrators waited until the third quarter to have the sign removed.
That was not the only thing he found distasteful.
“They had some guy who must have weighed about 400 pounds, and he went out there and danced while their juniors were doing their routine and mocked it,” he said.
“The players were inappropriate because of the way they talked back to the referees. The chants – ‘Bullshit, bullshit,’ whenever the referee made a bad call – were inappropriate,” he said.
“The referees were inappropriate because they had lost control of the game,” he continued. “I was quite frankly appalled.”
Board member Sarie Toste, who had also attended the game, said that although she admired the skill of the players, she was dismayed by the “inappropriate signs and inappropriate behavior” displayed by the fans.
“This lack of respect just galls me,” she remarked.
Marks said that the rude behavior was not limited to Eureka fans.
“At a game between Arcata and Del Norte, our fans booed one particular student every single time he touched the ball.”
She also observed a fan throw a water bottle at a referee.
Some of the board members worried that the problem could worsen with coming games, as the end of the season approaches, and feelings run high.
“When you have 2,000 people all together, things can get out of control,” said board member Dan Collum.
“We need a police officer there,” said board member Mike Pigg. “The students might take things to the next level.”
Marks said that at one time, all schools participating in the Humboldt Del Norte Basketball League had to meet certain standards of behavior. Signs were posted at each game outlining what was acceptable, and what was not. Rules of conduct were read aloud.
But those standards, she noted, had apparently disappeared over the years.
Superintendent Kenny Richards observed that some school districts avoid these problems by banning all fans from the games.
“Nobody gets to go in except the teams. But we don’t want to go that far,” he said.
Instead, he suggested writing a letter to the Eureka City Schools administration, telling them that Northern Humboldt wasn’t going to put up with poor sportsmanship.
Arcata High School Principal Lisa Gray said that AHS tries to head off problems by reminding fans what the school guidelines are before each game.
Last June, the NHUHSD board adopted changes to the district’s athletic policies, basically forbidding rowdy behaviors at games.
Prohibited acts include yelling, booing, and chanting at opposing teams, noisemakers, rude signs, turning backwards during introductions, and displaying messages painted on bare skin.