Lakota East football stands inspected to ensure fan safety during Friday night football

LIBERTY TWP., Ohio -- The stands will be filled at the Lakota East football field Friday night as the Thunderhawks take on Northmont in a high school football game.

While crowded bleachers is generally a good thing, school administrators are anxious after accidents occurred at Ohio high school stadiums each of the past two weeks.

On Friday, Sept. 6 , five people were hurt when the bleachers at Saint Charles Preparatory School just outside of Columbus.

Just a week before a similar incident happened closer to home when several people were hurt when a railing collapsed under the weight of people leaning against it at Sycamore High School Stadium at Coach Bud Acus Alumni Field .

Medics transported three people to Bethesda North Hospital to be treated for "very minor injuries," according to a police officer working security at the game. Other injuries were reported but no one else was transported for treatment.

As a result of those incidents, area high schools are taking a look at the structural integrity of their stadiums to avoid similar incidents with even more devastating results.

Though there are no direct guidelines for inspection of outdoor bleachers for schools in Ohio, John Charlton, associate direct for media relations for Ohio's Department of Education, pointed out general state laws governing student safety.

According to state law: The board of education of each city, exempted village, local, and joint vocational school district and the governing authority of each chartered nonpublic school periodically shall review its policies and procedures to ensure the safety of students, employees, and other persons using a school building from any known hazards in the building or on building grounds that, in the judgment of the board or governing authority, pose an immediate risk to health or safety.

With that in mind, Lakota East Athletic Director Richard Bryant says the bleachers at his school are inspected once a year. While he said he felt his stadium was safe, Bryant asked structural engineers to perform a special inspection earlier this week in preparation for Friday's home game.

"Our facilities are strong, they're well built. We have a nice wide step at the bottom of (our stadium) so it's a little bit of a different set up than a lot of schools," Bryant said. "We do keep kids off the rail so I really don't foresee any issues."

In adition to safety inspections, Bryant has worked with other school administrators to reach out to students and fans who attend games. He said they talked to specifically to the students about "being smart" and not overloading sections of the stands, particularly near guardrails.

"We're lucky, we have great kids who value administrative feedback and who listen to us," Bryant said.

Administrators at Lakota East and around the Tri-State hope their initiatives will allow football fans to pay attention to the action on the field instead of focusing on what's going on in the stands.


9 On Your Side reporter Bryce Anslinger contributed to this report.

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