Pleasantville shooting

Pleasantville police search the bleachers where shots were fired during a high school football playoff game Nov. 15.

The shooting last month at a Pleasantville High School football game that injured two and resulted in the death of a 10-year-old boy highlights the security-related aspects of an athletic director’s job.

“We’re a soft target,” Mainland Regional High School athletic director Mike Gatley said of after-school activities and sports. “But rest assured that we’re on a heightened awareness that whatever the security protocols are, they need to be reviewed and re-reviewed on a regular basis.”

Gunfire erupted Nov. 15 during the third quarter of a high school football playoff game between Pleasantville and Camden. Police said Alvin Wyatt, 31, of Atlantic City, shot at 27-year-old Ibn Abdullah, who was seated in the bleachers. Abdullah was injured, as were an unidentified 15-year-old and 10-year-old Micah Tennant, of Atlantic City. Micah, who was nicknamed “Dew” and inspired an outpouring of support from Pleasantville players and others after the shooting, died from his injuries Nov. 20. Abdullah also was charged in the incident, as were four other people who fled the scene and who police said had a gun on them.

Three weeks after the incident, athletic directors and school safety specialists attended a seminar to improve security and discuss safety during after-school activities.

Nearly 50 school administrators, athletic directors, school safety specialists and law enforcement officials from Atlantic and Cape May counties attended the two-hour seminar set up by Atlantic County Executive Superintendent Robert Bumpus.

“Schools are secure from 7 to 3, but after that they’re pretty open because they’re public venues,” said Steve Fortis, Absegami High School’s athletic director. “So that’s what we’re taking a hard look at.”

Mike Yaple, spokesman for the Department of Education, said the state has provided similar training for four years to various organizations. The training is meant to address a variety of hazards, from those posed by dangerous individuals to natural disasters; and includes security, traffic and pedestrian plans, emergency announcements and evacuations. The seminar lets attendees compare notes and find weak spots in their strategies.

Additional training sessions are scheduled next month for Burlington, Middlesex, Morris, Bergen and Warren counties. Yaple said more than 600 people are registered to attend them.

“It’s good information. There’s a lot of stuff we can implement right away without adding cost, just managing the event before it starts,” Fortis said. “(Another thing is) the visible presence of security. If you look at the Meadowlands or Lincoln Financial (Field), they’ve got someone in every section. That’s not something we can do financially, but we want to follow it on a reduced scale.”

Atlantic City High School has increased police presence during school events, athletic director Chris Ford Jr. said.

“One thing we’re doing different — we started this last year — we’re now using the main entrance instead of the sports complex entrance, using metal detectors just to make sure everyone’s good when they enter the building,” Ford said.

Mainland’s Gatley said he is always reviewing and making adjustments.

“Myself and other ADs have a pretty extensive security plan, but we’re always changing and adjusting,” Gatley said. “I have a meeting with my security staff biweekly to see if we need to change anything. With football it’s almost weekly.”

Gatley said just having the discussion is useful.

“Sometimes you realize how good you’re doing,” he said. “Sometimes you learn a new tweak you could do.”

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