Witness reports confirm that a fight broke out in the South Floyd High School gymnasium following a boys' basketball game against Betsy Layne High School Friday evening, one day after the Floyd County Board of Education backed Supt. Paul Fanning's decision to ban six parents from participating in their children's team sports because of fighting.
Floyd County Attorney Keith Bartley, who is still waiting for information to prosecute people involved in an October scuffle on school property, has taken charges against Rodney Hall, of Golf Course Hollow in Wheelwright, who faces one count of fourth-degree assault against a minor. Hall is accused of assaulting a 17-year-old male after Friday's game. He was reportedly escorted out of the building three times by Floyd County sheriff's deputies who worked at the game Friday.
The sheriff's department served a warrant on Hall Tuesday morning, Floyd County Sheriff John K. Blackburn said.
Bartley said he anticipates more charges against others involved in Friday's fight, and he's also recommending that “every single person involved in a fight on school property be prosecuted,” whether they started the altercation or were defending themselves from others who started it.
“This is ridiculous. It's out of control,” Bartley said. “I intend to propose that the board ban every person from engaging in any sporting event in Floyd County, period. I don't care who's right or who's wrong.”
Blackburn, who sent Deputies Delmas Johnson, Gary Tackett and Tivis Johnson to the game Friday, said officers will make arrests if people cause disturbances during or after ballgames.
“They will be arrested if we see them doing something wrong at ballgames,” Blackburn said. “They shouldn't be causing problems at ballgames. They should have more respect for the children than that.”
No injuries were reported after the fight, but officials and area residents are concerned that someone may get hurt if the fighting doesn't stop.
Friday's mishap was the fourth fight to break out between fans and/or players during or after a ballgame in Floyd County within the past six months.
South Floyd and Betsy Layne High School football players fought in September, after a South Floyd player was tackled out of bounds into South Floyd's sidelines. Fans from both sides jumped the fence, forcing officials to postpone the game for 15 to 20 minutes while they broke up the fight. That fight mirrored others that have taken place on school properties recently.
KSP officers were called to South Floyd in October after a fight broke out during a middle school football game. Angela Hall, a parent of one Prestonsburg High School student, made allegations against KSP Trooper Mike Wolfe, who was coaching the opposing Breathitt County team.
Hall claimed that her 15-year-old son, a PHS basketball player, sustained head injuries after Wolfe knocked him unconscious. Authorities said that the fight broke out between the players on the field, and it grew to an uncontrollable level as bystanders rushed in.
Last month, KSP officers were called again to South Floyd, after a fight broke out when South Floyd defeated Prestonsburg High School, 49-48. Witnesses of that fight said that players had some words during the traditional handshake ceremony and that a “little scuffle” broke out after team members were escorted to their respective locker rooms.
That fight prompted action from the Floyd County Board of Education, which declared last week that administrators would have “zero tolerance” for this type of disruptive behavior, but their action did not prevent another fight from breaking out Friday. Hall, one of the parents barred from attending her son's events, filed a civil suit against the board in Floyd Circuit Court because of the December fight.
“One thing is for certain, South Floyd's administration and coaches have got to get a grip on this team before something unfortunate happens,” a South Floyd alumnus wrote in a blog on the Bluegrassrivals.com website. “It all starts with the lack of leadership, letting players taunt the opposing fans and players. Tonight's events ruined an otherwise great contest. Someone needs to take a stand. I'm ashamed to call myself an alumnus of South Floyd High School tonight. Although tonight's events were not related to players, it starts with their lack of sportsmanship.”
Other entries on the website threatened continued problems from “crazzies” at South Floyd ballgames.
“Don't be ashamed of our fans,” one entry read. “They came over to our side and ran there mouths and we gave them what they deserved. Keep it up BETSY Layne. Crazzies are back Baby.”
South Floyd Principal Keith Henry, who was present at the game, said the fight broke out after former Betsy Layne High School players walked over to South Floyd's cheering section.
Henry removed two poster boards from South Floyd's cheering section and stopped South Floyd fans from running up and down the sidelines while players were shooting free throws during the game.
“I don't think it is any different than any high school where fans stand in the end zone. It happens,” Henry said. “As a matter of fact, when I was involved with ballgames at Betsy Layne, the all-county boys' team, students stood behind the goal and waved and yelled and cheered.”
Henry said the Kentucky High School Athletic Association may take steps to deal with the fighting problems that have been occurring at South Floyd. The school is now “reeducating” students about sportsmanship, he said.
“If I had [the reason for fighting at South Floyd games], I'd bottle it up and make a million bucks,” Henry said. “There are some issues and we're dealing with them.”
No problems were reported following the girl's basketball game at South Floyd Friday, a game that finished shortly before the boys' game, which ended, 74-72, in South Floyd's favor.
Betsy Layne was down by 17 points at halftime, but gained a 4-point lead with 1:24 left in the game. The fight reportedly began as both teams were heading for their respective locker rooms.
One parent of a Betsy Layne team member said the fight may have started because a Betsy Layne student “got pounced on” after he walked to the South Floyd side to sit with his girlfriend after the game.
Times Sports Editor Steve Lemaster, who witnessed the fight, said several altercations broke out at various sections of the gym immediately after the game ended Friday. After approximately 10 minutes, an announcement to evacuate the building calmed the crowd, Lemaster said, and the lights were turned off approximately five minutes later.
Principals at both schools were interviewing witnesses and compiling reports to turn in to the board of education by 4 p.m. Monday. Betsy Layne Principal Shawn Ousley did not return inquiry calls.
Floyd County Schools' Director of Instruction Henry Webb, who helped stop the altercation from escalating, said 500 to 600 people were in attendance, along with administrators from both schools, three Floyd County sheriff's deputies and off-duty Kentucky State Police Det. Randy Hunter, who refused comment Monday.
Webb said the initial altercation lasted less than a minute and that he didn't see any other altercations.
“These events are for the students and the children of Floyd County,” Webb said. “It's very important that everyone at these events act accordingly. There are students and small children attending these events. I think they need to remember this when they attend.”
Fanning, who is reviewing reports from all staff members and administrators involved, confirmed the board's assertion that fighting on school property will not be tolerated.
“Let the students play who are involved in extracurricular activities,” Fanning said. “We just need to make them the focus and once the game is over, everyone needs to act accordingly.”
Fanning met with South Floyd students Tuesday and informed them that the school is now placed on probation, which means that if any more problems occur during or after sporting events, games at South Floyd will be conducted without the presence of spectators. The Kentucky High School Athletic Association can still take action against the school and students, Fanning said, which is why he told the students Tuesday that he and the board are on probation alongside them.
Fanning estimated that at least 10 students and adults who participated in Friday's altercation will be removed from extracurricular activities. The students, he said, would face various disciplinary actions at their school.
“These are community events and we want to enjoy it, not destroy it,” Fanning said. “Hopefully, we won't have to deal with this matter anymore.”