Plainfield police and school district officials met Wednesday to work on a plan that might forestall another near-riot situation like the one that broke out at McDonald’s Tuesday night following a Plainfield North-Plainfield East high school basketball game.
The first course of action will be to send a letter home to the parents of all high school students, Plainfield School District 202 spokesman Tom Hernandez said.
“High school rivalries are not a bad thing, but they have their place,” Hernandez said.
“Our primary concern is student safety and community safety, and that many people in one location is not safe. We have to make sure our students are safe, and that extends to after-school events, which we see as an extension of the school day.”
Police estimate as many as 300 students gathered at the 12501 S. Route 59 McDonald’s shortly before 9 p.m., just after the conclusion of the North-East rivalry game in which East beat North 76 to 48. During the game, a controversial technical foul in which an East student collided with a North player after sinking a slam dunk provoked fans on both sides to chant “Meet at McDonald’s,” police said.
Plainfield police, with eight officers on the scene, had to make two arrests for disorderly conduct before they could break up the crowd jammed the inside of the restaurant and the outside parking lot, officials said.
It’s not the first time problems have occurred at this particular McDonald’s after basketball and football games, Police Chief John Konopek said. In fact, a fight broke out there just two weeks earlier, which was captured on a cell phone and later posted on YouTube, he said.
Police are reviewing the tape, which is no longer on the Web site, and have asked McDonald’s for copies of their surveillance videos to determine if charges are warranted, he said.
School and police officials acknowledge there’s not much the district can do about events that take place off campus, but educating students about the potential ramifications of crowd scenes that get out of hand – including the possibility of being injured, injuring someone else or being arrested – could help.
“The kids don’t think about or understand what the consequences of their actions are,” Konopek said. “Large crowd dynamics can change very rapidly. Every action has some type of consequence. But high school kids sometimes don’t see things right at the end of their nose.
“We can only go so far trying to educate them. … At some point, the parents have to reinforce the message. They need to be aware of what’s going on in their kid’s life.”
To that end, the letter to be sent to parents by week’s end will urge them to discuss the situation with their children, emphasizing the need to talk about good sportsmanship and the potential for life-altering results that can come with situations that get out of control, Hernandez said.
Parents should also monitor their children’s cell phones and Twitter and Facebook accounts to ensure they aren’t doing or saying things that could get them in trouble, Konopek said. It’s believed that many of the students who gathered at the McDonald’s Tuesday were alerted by friends via cell phones, he said.
School and police officials are also considering the possibility of holding school-wide presentations in which these topics are discussed, Hernandez said.
Konopek said police will continue to seek assistance from McDonald’s in dealing with crowds that have the potential to get out of control at the Route 59 restaurant, Konopek said.
Thus far, the corporate office has been unwilling to work with the department on such things as giving police access to their private parking lot so that they can break up groups that are loitering or closing their lobby for an hour or two following games so that the restaurant can’t be used as a meeting place, he said.
McDonald’s corporate office in Oak Brook did not respond to Plainfield Patch’s calls or email for comment Wednesday.
The bottom line, Konopek said, is students must be taught that it’s immature to take their rivalries beyond the school gym.
“School spirit is fine, but after the game is over, you have to go back to reality,” he said.
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