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Why students banned from Los Gatos vs. Palo Alto sports contests

When Palo Alto and Los Gatos high schools meet in sports this spring, there will be a noticeable absence in the stands:
Unruly behavior at football and basketball games between the Santa Clara County rivals prompted administrators to take the unusual measure of banning students from athletic contests between the schools.
The ban will continue through the remainder of the school year, Los Gatos principal Kristina Grasty and Palo Alto principal Adam Paulson wrote in a joint statement. The only exception is if a family member is participating in the athletic contest, the statement noted.
“For the last few years or so there have been tensions with both the Los Gatos fan base and Palo Alto fan base,” Palo Alto athletic director Therren Wilburn said Monday. “So collaboratively we’ve tried to have measures in place prior to games, administrators from both sides sending out positive reinforcement to the student bodies and the fan bases.
“But it just hasn’t been working.”
The tipping point might have occurred during a boys basketball game at Los Gatos in early February. While a Palo Alto player was at the free-throw line, an object was tossed from the stands, prompting Los Gatos athletic director Ken Perrotti to warn students over the public-address system that Los Gatos would have to forfeit if the students didn’t clean up their act.
After the game, there was an issue between the students in the parking lot, Perrotti said Monday.
“There has been a bunch of ongoing issues between student bodies,” Perrotti added. “It has really been building over the last couple of years. Student safety was coming into question. We were trying to be as proactive as possible. It is not every single kid. It is the action of a few. Both student bodies are responsible for what has transpired.”
In their joint statement, the principals laid out plans to get the conduct under control.
In addition to no students at athletic contests this spring, the schools will hold a “Positive Sportsmanship Summit” on April 29 at a neutral site — Fremont High in Sunnyvale — that will include roughly 20 student-athlete leaders, the athletic directors, Santa Clara Valley Athletic League commissioner Brad Metheany and Central Coast Section commissioner Duane Morgan.
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The goal is to “work toward an alliance between our schools to promote and ensure positive sportsmanship and respectful behavior at all future contests between our schools,” according to the statement.
“In conversations I’ve had with individual students, they all have a different perspective about why they enjoy the Los Gatos rivalry, so I think getting 10 different opinions about the rivalry, it will actually get a genuine answer from the students and you’ll get some honest feedback,” Wilburn said. “And I think that it may be candid, blunt and raw, but I think that’s what both sides need to hear in order to repair this relationship we have with Los Gatos.”
Morgan said it is unfortunate that the situation has escalated to this level.
“The message is the same one we give all the time,” Morgan added. “You’re not just representing yourself. You’re not just representing your team. You’re representing your family. You’re representing your community. You’re representing your school. You need to embrace that. Anything you do and say is a reflection of all those entities.
“It’s pretty basic, you need to adhere to what good sportsmanship is. This section embraces that and the leadership embraces that. We’re not going to come off that stance.”
Morgan said he has the authority to discipline the schools but doesn’t plan to do so.
“It’s not going to be, if you don’t do this, we’re going to penalize you,” he said. “I’m not that kind of person. But they’re going to get the message loud and clear that this is the expectation in this section, that you will condone to sportsmanship. This is educationally based athletics.”
According to the principals’ statement, there will be repercussions for “egregious and/or unsafe social media postings from our students that incite or aggravate tensions between our schools prior to athletic contests. Students who commit such acts may forfeit the right to attend any and all future contests.” Coaches, athletic directors and administrators from the schools will stay in touch as they prepare for athletic contests starting in the 2019-20 school year, the statement added.
Zoe Baghaie, a Palo Alto junior, told the student publication, the Paly Voice , that the conduct is an issue.
“It’s a lot of fun going to the games and supporting Paly athletics, but the sportsmanship has gotten really out of hand, and really takes away from the actual game,” Baghaie said.
The decision comes a month after a boys basketball game between rivals Monterey and Alisal was canceled in the interest of studend-athlete and fan safety.
“They called me about it and I said, ‘Yeah, this is a wise decision,'” Morgan said.

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