Eden Prairie Schools (EPS) and the Eden Prairie Police Department (EPPD) will increase security for Friday’s high school homecoming football game.
The decision came in response to recent security incidents at Edina and Richfield high schools’ homecoming games.
Eden Prairie High School’s (EPHS) varsity football squad will square off against Prior Lake at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30, at Aerie Stadium. About 6,000 people are expected to attend the game, versus 4,500 for a regular home game.
In an email sent Tuesday to families in the district, EPS said, “While we do not expect any problems at Friday’s game, we want to be prepared so all can have a positive experience. Our school administrators will help to welcome all attendees, and the Eden Prairie Police Department will have an increased presence at the game.”
EPPD spokesperson Kari Knoll gave the same message about its planned role in ensuring security. “The Eden Prairie Police Department will have an increased presence at Friday night’s football game and will work closely with the school district throughout the week to establish security protocols,” she said on Monday via email to EPLN.
“Other law enforcement agencies will be available to provide backup if the need arises,” she added.
No new rules, but strictly enforced existing protocols
The school district’s email reminded families of existing safety and security policies but did not issue any increased restrictions for the game.
It reiterated its policy that K-8 students must be accompanied by a ticket-holding adult chaperone to enter the stadium, as well as during the game. Eden Prairie students are encouraged to bring their school ID; otherwise, they may need to wait for staff to look them up in the student management system before they can enter. If a student (from EPS or another district) is found to be K-8 and tries to enter without a chaperone, EPS staff will call parents to pick up their child from the gate.
The email also reminded families that the following items are not permitted in Aerie Stadium: coolers, backpacks, cinch bags, large signs, banners, flags, soccer balls, footballs, tennis balls, Frisbees, baseballs, softballs, playground balls, and artificial noisemakers (megaphones, compressed air horns, duck calls, whistles, cowbells). EPS said it is not responsible for lost or stolen items, including items confiscated at the gate.
EPS rules also prohibit gambling, drinking, smoking, or possessing weapons, intoxicants and illegal chemicals in the school buildings or on the school property, including the school parking lots.
Readmittance to the game will not be permitted. In an email sent to EPHS families on Thursday afternoon, Principal Nate Gibbs said that anyone who leaves the stadium after entering (including before or during the game, or at halftime) will not be allowed to return.
“We are lucky to have a strong, collaborative relationship with the Eden Prairie Police Department and have worked for years to build extensive proactive and responsive plans to keep schools safe. This includes school activities and athletic events,” said district spokesperson Dirk Tedmon, via email to EPLN.
Tedmon added, “We continuously review and strengthen those plans, even when there aren’t incidents like those that happened recently in other districts. We will do everything possible to keep students, families, and community members safe so they can focus on having fun at our homecoming game.”
Fights, gunfire at recent area games
On Sept. 16, there were several fights at Edina High School’s homecoming game, including a large mid-game brawl that resulted in multiple arrests. Edina police received support from Bloomington, Richfield, and St. Louis Park police departments to restore order.
In response, Edina Public Schools issued new rules and restrictions about game attendance and said it would tighten safety and security protocols.
On Sept 23, Richfield High School’s (RHS) homecoming game was halted as gunshots were fired outside the stadium, causing the panicked crowd to evacuate and the remainder of the game to be canceled. Two juveniles were arrested, including a current RHS student; two adults were injured and are expected to recover.
In response, Richfield Public Schools canceled all remaining homecoming events and made counselors and social workers available to support students.
Editor’s note: Jim Bayer contributed to this story.
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