WARREN - Preemptive cancellation of the Harding football game Friday was not a reflection of problems within the school but rather within the community, Superintendent Michael Notar expressed at a press conference Sunday.
"Because of my decision people can say that I am a coward, people can say that I over-reacted to maybe false information or rumors, but no one can say they read the paper on Saturday morning about a tragedy that happened at a football game on Friday night at Mollenkopf Stadium," Notar said.
After receiving a call from police Friday afternoon that there was a "high level of concern" surrounding the game, Notar said he had a short amount of time to make the decision to call off the game.
"The Lorain-Harding football game was canceled because I was informed there was evidence of a credible threat from adults toward adults. When the police chief says there is evidence of a credible threat, there is no choice, but the choice of caution because children were present."
Violence has been escalating in the city since the Oct. 19 police shooting of Warren resident, 24-year-old Taemarr Walker. Days later Walker's brother Tashawn Walker, 26, was accused by police in a shooting at a Warren Township bar early Oct. 26, followed by the shooting death of Richard Rollison IV, 24, at a West Market Street, Warren, gas station.
Notar said police did not specify that the concern was connected to the specific shootings. Nevertheless, he was not willing to let the violence seep into the school.
Tribune Chronicle / Margaret Thompson
Warren City School officials on Sunday met with media to explain the decision to cancel Friday’s Harding varsity football game. From left, are board members Patricia Limperos,
Bob Faulkner, Superintendent Michael Notar, Board Member Regina Patterson, high school principal Dante Capers and football coach Steve Arnold.
He faced a similar situation earlier in the week when "Facebook chatter" of adults coming to the school to retaliate for recent shooting in the community, left him questioning whether or not to close school.
Notar said he discussed the threats with police who determined they were not credible. With a phone call to parent's Monday night, he left the decision in the parents' hands as to whether their children would attend or not.
Only 35 percent of students at Harding came to school Tuesday, where extra police were present to search through students' book bags. By Thursday and Friday, attendance was up to 90 percent district-wide, according to Notar.
"This past Friday was one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make. The week went well and I had no anticipation of canceling the football game or even considered moving it to the opposing team's site," he said.
The difference in Notar's two decisions came down to the level of threat and the nature of the arenas.
"Football is not a school event in Warren, it's a community event. If 5,000 people attend, 200 will be student fans, 200 will be in the band, 100 will be on the football team and 4,000 will be from the community."
Despite the reasoning Notar said he knows that the students, seniors in particular, were disappointed not to participate in the last home game of the season. He said his own senior year, teachers went on strike during the last weeks of the year and many graduation parties were delayed or canceled as a result.
Notar said he will meet with the football team, cheerleaders and band members today to discuss his decision with them. He also expressed support of the band director's decision to plan an event to recognize the senior members at a later date.
"All the individuals shocked that the most by the events are the students. They are being affected by the actions of adults outside the school district. Our students are glad to be at school where they feel safe. They have a positive attitude and enjoy being at school," Notar said.
Football coach Steve Arnold echoed Notar's sentiments and is glad to have rumors dispelled that the issues lie with the students.
"The kids are being dragged senselessly into this," he said.
Mayor Doug Franklin also attended the meeting in support of the board of education, but declined to comment on the decision.