Updated story in our e-edition includes comments from parents who were there.
As parents and players on both sides are reeling from Saturday’s 8th grade boy’s regional basketball game between PCMS and Fannin County Middle School where a fight broke out after alleged racial slurs were yelled, administrators say they plan to address safety concerns for future games.
Fannin County Superintendent Mark Henson said Monday afternoon that his office is trying to be proactive for future events, including this Monday night’s championship game where three resource officers and three referees will be on hand.
Fannin County Middle School’s gymnasium only has seating on one side of the gym, forcing spectators for both teams to sit side-by-side, and often enflaming already high tensions, especially at tournament level play.
A fight broke out Saturday when a PCMS player hit a player from Fannin, allegedly after racial slurs were being lodged at the PCMS player. The PCMS player was in a juvenile hearing this afternoon in Fannin County.
The Pickens County coach forfeited the game with about 40 seconds to go. They were trailing by 10 points.
PCMS Principal Chris LeMieux said Monday morning it was definitely a safety concern that led them to forfeit. He was on-hand and agreed when the coach asked if they should forfeit. "It was for the safety not only of the players but the cheerleaders and the parents," he said. [See more from local school officials in this week's print edition].
LeMieux and Henson both noted the extremely crowded middle school gym as a factor in the tense situation.
"We try to use the high school gym during intense situations but we had things going on at the high school that day,” Henson said.
Henson said both the school system and the Fannin County Sheriff’s office are investigating the incident. Henson wouldn’t comment specifically on the altercation as it is under investigation.
“We’re looking at the incident and we’re looking at our own parents and spectators. If it comes to light that they somehow instigated all this then we’ll take appropriate action,” Henson said.
Henson said tournaments lend themselves to “intense situations” but applauded the many “level-headed” people on hand that day for their responses that kept the situation from escalating even further.
“I viewed the video and we had people from both sides who I feel like were a great help in keeping the situation from going any further,” Henson said. “Even though there were bad actions that day there were good ones too. When you’ve got a lot of emotion bottled up in a room there’s always the possibility of it developing further. But there were level heads there that day and my hat is off to them.”
LeMieux also noted the cooler heads who prevailed to calm things down and the incident remained isolated. “Some good people defused what could have been a very bad situation,” he said.
Pickens School superintendent Lula Mae Perry said she is keeping tabs on this situation but had not been at the game and will wait until she learns more about it before making any comments.