Paterson school board president questions football game change after recent shooting

September 9, 2016

PATERSON – School board president Christopher Irving said he thinks the relocation of Friday night’s football game between Paterson Eastside and Clifton because of a recent shooting near Eastside’s home field revealed “an indirect bias.”

Irving said he agreed with the decision to move the game from Bauerle Field in Paterson to Clifton Stadium for security reasons.

But the school board president questioned the fact that the game would be played at night, instead of during the day. At the end of the game, Irving said, the Eastside players would be bused back to their school, in the same neighborhood where the shooting took place, and have to make their way home late at night. “It just reeks of indirect bias,” said Irving. “You have to look at both sides of the coin and not discount the value of our own kids’ safety.”

Irving said he was “disappointed” in the way administrators in the Paterson school district handled the situation, saying he thought the safety concerns for the Clifton players were prioritized ahead of those for the Paterson team.

No one was wounded in a shooting on Market Street on Tuesday evening, but the outbreak of gunfire about a block from the field prompted education officials to cut short the Eastside practice that evening, which was held on the same field where Friday’s game had been scheduled.

Paterson Public Schools spokeswoman Terry Corallo said the change in location for the game had been requested by Clifton officials and was agreed to by Paterson.

“The safety of our students and staff is our top priority and it important to note that no security incident has taken place at any one of our schools or at a sporting event,” Corallo said.

The Eastside football team has several other road games at night on its schedule –events for which the team would be bused back to the school late at night.

Clifton athletic director Tom Mullahey said he had not participated in any plan to move the game to the afternoon. “In light of recent events, the superintendents from Clifton and Paterson discussed the matter and they decided to play the game in Clifton on Friday night,” Mullahey said.

Some schools in crime-plagued cities in Essex and Hudson counties only play day games for security reasons.

Paterson school board member Jonathan Hodges said he didn’t think the change in location was necessary. “But then again, I wasn’t there when the gunfire took place,” said the veteran board member.

“We should not be incapable of holding a football game on a Friday night,” Hodges added. “If we host someone, we will do everything in our power to make sure they arrive safely and leave safely.”

Board member Errol Kerr said he didn’t see a problem with the team bus dropping the Eastside Ghosts off at the school after the night game. He said players could be picked up at the school.

Kerr said he was not familiar with the basis for the decision to move the game. “Whatever we decide, the safety of our children should come first,” said Kerr.