Last Updated on July 12, 2022 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995
Rowdy spectators and parents seem to be everywhere at student sporting events, yelling at referees, throwing cups, or loudly disagreeing with sports calls. Don’t we all have a story about these people and their uncomfortable communications?
As of July 2022, the CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) which governs California high school sports has finally issued a rule to address crazy spectators at high school sporting events. Prior to this time, CIF did not have any handling for non-athletes who attacked sports officials.
Introducing CIF Bylaw 210 C!
As of June 2022, there was no CIF rule 210C to address unruly parents or spectators. Now there is, and here is what it says:
Any spectator who physically assaults the person of a game or event official immediately prior to, during, or immediately following an interscholastic athletic contest shall be permanently banned from attending interscholastic athletic contests. A game or event official is defined as a referee, umpire or any other official assigned to interpret or enforce rules of competition at an event or contest.
This appears to be a ban from all CIF governed sporting events (California high school sports), held anywhere.
Enforcment by CIF? Not Likely
It’s one thing to write a rule, and a completely different thing to enforce it.
Will CIF somehow develop a list of offending spectators which will go to all schools to somehow keep banned parents and spectators out? Or, how will CIF implement this ban?
Probably this will fall on the shoulders of the local schools to execute.
Even without this CIF rule, schools were already excluding rowdy parents under other California laws which give schools the power to ban disruptive people for short periods of time.
Assaults and Verbal Threats By Parents Now Mean Banishment from Sports Events
Similar to the ban on student athletes who assault game officials, a verbal threat or attempt to harm an official are considered a “physical assault” under the rule even if no one is touched.
CIF defines physical assault as:
A physical assault is the intentional infliction of or an attempt to inflict a harmful or offensive touching or contact upon the person of an official. Note that the rule is violated even if no contact is made with the person of an official. Such conduct shall include verbal threats and/or intimidation either or before, during or after the contest. All that is required is the “attempt.”
Try to harm an umpire and you are banished. Threaten verbally to harm a referee, and “You’re out!”
Specific Intent Required
A person banned has to have the specific intent to “inflict a harmful or offensive touching” to be banned from high school sporting events.
So, an accidental swipe to the face of an umpire would presumably not breach this rule. But, it is unclear who will determine the assaulter’s intent as there is no hearing right specified.
No Appeal Right
Unlike with student athletes, who can appeal a ban in 18 months, there is no right to appeal the CIF ban outlined in the bylaws. A ban seems to be permanent to the parent or spectator.
Presumably, a parent who disagrees could attempt to contact CIF and resolve the matter, but there is no outlined appeal process.
Schools Duty to Notify CIF
If a physical assault occurs to a referee, umpire or game official, the school(s) involved have a a duty to report the assault to their local CIF office and to the State CIF office as well.
Rule 210 C says:
School administration and/or athletic staff shall immediately notify their local CIF Section Office and CIF State Office whenever the school has knowledge of an assault on a game official associated with an interscholastic event in which their school participated or of an assault occurring on their school’s grounds associated with an interscholastic athletic contest.
I wonder what will happen if schools fail to report?
We know what will happen to angry parents protesting a call in a “threatening” way… banishment. Will the same happen to schools who fail to report a spectator assault during a school sporting event? Not likely.
Student attorney Michelle Ball assists with CIF and sports issues and questions across California. As an education lawyer in Sacramento, she can reach to many locations including Carmel, Solvang, Lincoln, Ceres, Pleasanton, Stockton and many other towns.