High school softball teams banned from playoffs after players, parents brawl

Some parents tell Channel 2's Steve Gehlbach the punishment is unfair.

Two Atlanta high school softball teams were forced to forfeit their postseason chances after players and their parents brawled at a recent game.

The Oct. 2 match between South Atlanta and Booker T. Washington high schools came to blows on the field, and an adult fired a gun into the air, according to Atlanta Public Schools. That person was arrested.

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As part of the disciplinary measures undertaken by the school system, both schools forfeited their first-round games in the Georgia High School Association state playoffs, which begin this week.

“This decision to have both teams forgo the postseason was a difficult one,” APS spokesman Ian Smith said Monday in a written statement. “However, all students, student athletes and parents representing APS are required to adhere to a code of conduct that calls for respect and appropriate behavior at school or on school property at any time, off school grounds at any activity, function or event and while traveling to and from such events, and on vehicles provided for student transportation by the district.”

In cellphone video of the fight, originally obtained by Channel 2 Action News, dozens of parents rushed South Atlanta’s field as players began throwing punches. A lone police officer attempted to break it up.

The adult, who was not named, was arrested on charges of possession of a firearm on school property and discharging a firearm on school property. The incident is still being investigated by school police, and more charges are possible, Smith said.

Students at both schools also will face school-level discipline. A parent of a Washington softball player told the Atlanta school board on Monday that her daughter’s team was punished, but that’s not the case for all students involved in the fight. She said the district did not provide adequate protection. Near the end of her comments, several members of the audience began to chant: “Let them play.”

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The first round of the playoff tournament begins Tuesday.