With all of the talk of charging the two high school football players who intentionally struck an official here in Central Texas last Friday, I thought it might be interesting to see what had happened in previous cases of high school athletes striking referees. It turns out that it’s not all that uncommon for high school players to strike officials, and it’s also not uncommon for them to be arrested for it. Here, for example, is a case from 2013 in which two high school football players were arrested for punching a referee during a game. Here is a case from last Spring in which a Georgia high school soccer player punched a referee immediately after a game, and was charged with battery. In November of 2014, seven California high school soccer players were suspended from school after six of them surrounded the referee, forcing him backwards into a seventh player, the goalie, who shoved him in the back. It looks like at least some of those players may have been ruled ineligible, though it’s tough to say, as FERPA prevents schools and athletic associations from talking about individual players and, in most cases, individual punishments. Earlier this year Tennessee high school wrestler was barred from wrestling for a year, and ordered to attend anger management classes, after both shoving an official and striking one (apparently unintentionally) with a chair he had kicked. Lest we think this is a recent phenomenon, here is a case from 1997 in which a Pennsylvania high school basketball player punched a referee, and was charged with felony aggravated assault. The article mentions another case from the same year in which a New Mexico football player punched a referee during a game, but was not charged.
It looks to me, then, like it is not uncommon for high school athletes to strike officials, and it is not uncommon for them to be suspended from school and competition, and even charged with a crime, for doing so. The only difference between previous cases and the one that is currently receiving so much attention seems to be video, though even that is not enough to explain the level of attention it is getting nationally.
Oh, and there’s one more case, which I think we should keep in mind when making pronouncements about the sorts of consequences these kids should face. Back in 2010, a high school basketball player in Florida shoved and then body slammed a referee in a game. There is video, so it got some national attention, though nothing like the current case. The player, Mason Holland, was kicked off the team and suspended from school, though he was not charged. He ended up dropping out of school, and was later arrested for sex with a minor. In a strange twist, his former coach was also arrested for trying to bribe the girl’s family into not pressing charges. It sounds like Holland had issues that went far beyond the basketball court, and there is absolutely no excuse for raping an underage girl, but it’s worth noting that a kid who was in school dropped out soon after being suspended for his attack on a referee.