High school football nears amid concerns of violence

School superintendent still considering changing game days, times

By Kent Justice - Anchor/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - After a tragic spring which included the shooting deaths of two First Coast High School football players, Duval County School Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti said he was considering changing the start times of some high school football games. Two weeks from the start of the season, the school district has not taken any formal action.

"At this point I'm not ready to change the day or times of the games, but we are looking to engage the First Coast community, mainly the parents of the students," Vitti said.

Junior varsity players attended early evening practice in Oceanway and some of their parents discussed the possibility that the famous Friday night lights may not shine at some point this fall.

"I like it and I don't like it. You're messing a tradition up. It's Friday night. It's high school football and that's what everybody enjoys," parent Chris Cook said.

Cook wasn't the only parent who expressed the fact that the change in tradition may not make everyone in the community happy.

"I would say a lot of people in the community would be upset if we change because of tradition. Most of the times they look forward to coming out on Friday nights for the football games," parent Kimberly Mann said.

The school district wants to avoid situations that led to violence in May, when two football players were killed in separate incidents.

Vitti mentioned those killings, he increased security at graduation, and said he'd consider changing games from Friday nights to Saturday afternoons.

Vitti said he's still considering it and parents said they don't know if it would work, but they do want their children safe.

"You almost go by hope. I hope nothing happens, or this don't happen again. But bad crowds are bad crowds," Cook said.

"If they don't have the game Friday night, I think they'll attend a lot of other high school games. It ain't gonna help," Mann said.

Though Vitti didn't detail all the factors he is considering in regard to safety, he did say he wants more involvement from the community.

"At this point I'd say the games will remain. But I want to see greater activity and commitment on behalf of the community, to share the responsibility, to make sure those games are safe," Vitti said.

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