Starkville Oktibbeha School District’s new security policy requires clear bags, metal detectors for sporting events

STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – Fans going to Starkville High School’s home-opener against West Point Friday night will have to follow some new rules to get into the football stadium.

The Starkville Oktibbeha School District announced August 22 that there will be a new security policy for all sporting events going forward.

“We talked a couple of weeks ago with our administrative team to look at trying to add some extra layers of security to our athletic events,” says school district superintendent Dr. Tony McGee. “We saw that Hattiesburg public schools had passed a very similar measure prior to that.”

One of the most significant changes is the new bag policy. Fans may only bring in clear, plastic bags no bigger than 12 inches, by 6 inches by 12 inches; one-gallon plastic bags or clutch bags no larger than 4.5 inches by 6.5 inches.

“I think it just provides an opportunity for people to come in and know that they’re in a safe environment when they get here,” says athletic director Greg Owens. “It allows them to cheer and support our student-athletes.”

The policy is the same one that Mississippi State has at Davis Wade Stadium. Bags meeting the necessary requirements are available at Starkville stores like the Lodge.

“We’re in a college town that has a successful program,” Owens says. “So it was easy to be able to look at what other successful programs have done either on the collegiate level or high school level.”

There will also be security personnel with metal detectors checking bags at each stadium entrance.

“Just to be sure that there are no weapons or anything like that because we don’t want weapons inside the stadium or on the property during games,” says school resource officer Sammy Shumaker.

The school says they will have extra officers working Friday in anticipation of the high number of fans.

“I think we’re prepared to take on that crowd and we’ll be really tested this Friday night,” Owen says. “Because we’re expecting a great crowd with us and West Point.”

Gates open for that game at 6:30 p.m.

“Most likely, we’ll have at least four officers on the home gate and three officers on the visitors’ gate,” Shumaker says. “Just to be sure that we can move everybody around quickly.”

Dr. McGee says there have been some mixed reactions to the new security measures but he believes that ultimately, this policy is in the best interest of students and parents.

“We understand that people will have feelings on both sides,” he says. “But from a school district standpoint, I think it’s important that every time we have a public event, we’re providing the highest level of security we can for our people.”

Dr. McGee says that a shooting incident that happened the same night as a recent pep rally did not necessarily have a direct reflection on the new security measures.

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