A 10-Year-Old's Shooting Death and the Challenge Schools Face Keeping Football Games Safe

Camden High School's Da' Vion Harper's handwritten message
Camden High School's Da' Vion Harper's handwritten message "Rip Micah" was in honor of Micah Tennant, 10, who was shot, along with two others, during a high school football game last Friday in Pleasantville, N.J. Micah died from his injuries on Wednesday, just hours before the Pleasantville and Camden teams were to play the remaining minutes of their game at the home field of the Philadelphia Eagles.
—Elizabeth Robertson/The Philadelphia Inquirer/AP
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When gunfire disrupted the fourth quarter of a New Jersey high school playoff game last Friday, three people, including a 10-year-old spectator, were injured.

It marked the seventh time in 2019 that a high school football game became the venue for a shooting that injured multiple people and sent spectators into a panic. It is also the 23rd school shooting this year that resulted in injury or death, according to Education Week’s school shooting tracker.

Then on Wednesday, the news got worse. Micah Tennant, the 10-year-old, died from his injuries. His death came just hours before the two high school teams—Pleasantville High School and Camden High School—were to finish the remaining minutes of the Friday night game, hosted by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Since the current school year began, Micah’s shooting death is the third that has occurred in or near stadiums filled with spectators watching high school football. One of the other fatalities was an 8-year-old girl in St. Louis.

Camden High School (white jerseys) and Pleasantville High School players stand for a moment of silence before the two teams resumed their football game on Wednesday that had been interrupted by gunfire last Friday night. Ten-year-old Micah Tennant died from his injuries in the shooting.
Camden High School (white jerseys) and Pleasantville High School players stand for a moment of silence before the two teams resumed their football game on Wednesday that had been interrupted by gunfire last Friday night. Ten-year-old Micah Tennant died from his injuries in the shooting.
—Elizabeth Robertson/The Philadelphia Inquirer/AP

The shooting tragedy in New Jersey is a sobering reminder for schools that even the iconic Friday night football game is not immune from the gun violence that has devastated many communities and ignited national debates over gun control and school security.

The incident also exposes a critical vulnerability and underscores a crucial responsibility for schools: Keeping students, staff, and spectators safe from violence during school-sponsored events that take place outside school buildings.

It’s an issue that has not received as widespread national attention as mass shootings inside schools, but is still one that is top of mind for many school district leaders, including the North East Independent School District in San Antonio, Texas.

There, Athletic Director Karen Funk, in partnership with the school district’s police, is in charge of securing the district’s sporting events. She’s overseen the installation of metal detectors, wands, and enforcement of a clear bag policy.

In Tulsa, Okla., the school district also has ramped up security at its sporting events. Campus police there now do security sweeps before every event, and each event is staffed with a minimum of six officers, among several other security initiatives.

Those are two examples of districts that have started to expand their safety and security procedures to cover off-campus events that Education Week explored in depth at the beginning of this school year. You can read that story, as well as recommendations from a school security expert, here.

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