It is the clear obligation of contestants and coaches in all interscholastic competitions to practice the highest principles of sportsmanship and ethics of competition. The governing organization shall have authority to penalize any contestant or coach in violation of this obligation.

Spectator Conduct

Public Conduct on School Premises for high school and junior high competition 

This Policy Primer from the Iowa Association of School Boards is devoted to the topic of the behavior of individuals at school district activities. The Iowa High School Athletic Association and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union asked the Iowa Association of School Boards, Iowa Department of Education and School Administrators of Iowa to assist them in developing a sample spectator policy. There have been increasing concerns and incidents at athletic events where spectators, both students and adults, have been verbally and physically abusive to participants, officials, coaches and other spectators. Included with this Policy Primer is a sample “Public Conduct on School Premises” policy. Some school districts will already have this policy in place, since it was included in the IASB Policy Reference Manual. Those districts will not need to consider a new policy unless they want to incorporate the minor changes made to the sample policy.

The following is taken from IASB Policy Primer, Volume 12, Number 3, June 15, 1999:

School District Authority 

Pursuant to Iowa Code § 279.8, boards have the authority to adopt rules for the school district. Included in this general authority is the right to develop rules to protect students, employees, visitors and school property. Iowa trespass law is used to criminally prosecute individuals whose presence or behavior is prohibited. Trespass is defined as follows in Iowa Code § 716.7:

  1. Entering upon or in property without the express permission of the owner, lessee, or person in lawful possession with the intent to commit a public offense, to use, remove therefrom, alter, damage, harass, or place thereon or therein anything animate or inanimate, or to hunt, fish or trap on or in the property. This paragraph does not prohibit the unarmed pursuit of game or furbearing animals lawfully injured or killed which come to rest on or escape to the property of another.
  2. Entering or remaining upon or in property without justification after being notified or requested to abstain from entering or to remove or vacate therefrom by the owner, lessee, or person in lawful possession, or the agent or employee of the owner, lessee, or person in lawful possession, or by any peace officer, magistrate, or public employee whose duty it is to supervise the use or maintenance of the property.
  3. Entering upon or in property for the purpose or with the effect of unduly interfering with the lawful use of the property by others.
  4. Being upon or in property and wrongfully using, removing therefrom, altering, damaging, harassing, or placing thereon or therein anything animate or inanimate, without the implied or actual permission of the owner, lessee, or person in lawful possession.

School officials have the legal authority to ask people to leave when their behavior is interfering with the ability of others to participate in or watch a school activity pursuant to Iowa Code § 716.7. 

Misbehavior Defined

School officials should develop a working definition of what they consider to be misbehavior warranting an individual’s temporary or permanent removal from school activities. The sample policy uses the following definitions:

  1. Abusive, verbal or physical conduct of spectators directed at participants, officials or sponsors of activities or at other spectators will  not be tolerated.
  2. Verbal or physical conduct of spectators that interferes with the performance of students, officials or sponsors of activities will not be tolerated.
  3. The use of vulgar, obscene or demeaning expression directed at students, officials or sponsors participating in an extracurricular activity or at other spectators will not be tolerated.

For purposes of this Policy Primer and the sample policy, “activities” includes all school-sponsored or approved activities and co- and extra-curricular activities.

Removal Procedure 

There is no specific procedure for invoking school authority pursuant to § 716.7, and depending upon the severity of the behavior, the procedure followed by school officials may differ. For most incidents, the appropriate procedure would be to give the offending individual a warning to allow him or her to correct the misbehavior. Upon continued misbehavior, either at the same or future event, the school official could either repeat the first step or ask the individual to leave. Following the removal, the school official should follow-up with a letter.  The letter should come from an individual with authority, such as the board president, superintendent, principal or school attorney.  A number of issues should be addressed in the letter, such as:

  1. Behavioral expectations of spectators.
  2. Whether the individual is banned from future activities.
  3. Whether and when the individual will be allowed back into future activities.
  4. Whether the ban on attendance will be enforced outside the school district (the issue of reciprocity is discussed below); and, if the individual is a parent, to what extent, if any, does this impact the parent’s ability to participate in his or her child’s education program.

If the individual either ignores prior warnings or the offense is so egregious to warrant immediate removal, school officials have the authority to remove an individual without giving prior warning. School officials also have the authority to get an order from an Iowa district court to prohibit an individual from entering school grounds. While the court order is uncommon, it has been done successfully and should be done when necessary to protect students and others. This step obviously involves the school attorney and administration working closely to ensure the order prohibits the specific conduct. If the individual is also a parent, the court order should include provisions for the parent to maintain some contact with the school district regarding his or her child’s education. Provisions may need to be made that meetings take place at a mutually agreeable time and place.


A concern raised by school officials is their ability to control the behavior of an offending individual off school grounds, such as the UNI Dome or at another school district. In discussions with school attorneys, there is some belief that a school district may have the authority to ban an individual from all school activities ­ no matter the location. This authority has yet to be tested, however. In the absence of clear authority one way or another, school officials may want to ban an individual’s presence at all activities. If a court order is sought, the court order should also include a ban on all activities outside the school district.

Another option available to school officials is to get athletic conferences to agree on similar policies and procedures and include reciprocity in the language. This language would give greater weight and authority to the reciprocity in the case of a challenge. The athletic associations are considering adopting similar language so the provision would be in effect for contests sponsored by their associations.


There are a number of practical issues to consider when developing and implementing a visitor conduct policy. Some tips are:

  1. Have signs posted at entrances to facilities where activities are taking place stating that individuals whose behavior violates board policy may be removed from the activity, and the removal could be permanent. The athletic associations are considering mass producing removal signs and making them available to school districts.
  2. Make an announcement at the beginning of an event letting those present know the level of behavior expected of them and that a violation could warrant removal from the activity which could lead to a permanent removal.
  3. School officials should be working with law enforcement when developing the policy to ensure they have law enforcement’s support. Having a local law enforcement officer available at activities helps control behavior.
  4. Use the media to spread the message that the school district is serious about the behavior of individuals at school events and won’t tolerate the harassment of students, officials or coaches.

The athletic associations also will work with officials, athletic directors and coaches about their respective roles in controlling misbehavior at events.

In conclusion, while a policy on public conduct on school premises is not required, it appears to be necessary.  Boards and administrators should think carefully about the behavior they want to encourage and prohibit.  They should also develop the procedures they will use when removing individuals from events, both temporarily and permanently.  And, they should let the public know the behaviors expected and prohibited at school activities.

Note: This is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered.  It is furnished with the understanding that the Association is not engaged in rendering legal or other professional services.  If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought.

Public Conduct on School Premises

School sponsored or approved extracurricular activities are an important part of the school program and offer students the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities not offered during the regular school day. School sponsored or approved Extracurricular activities are provided for the enjoyment and opportunity for involvement they afford the students.

Spectators are permitted to attend school sponsored or approved extracurricular activities only as guests of the school district, and, accordingly as a condition of such permission, they must comply with the school district’s rules and policies. Spectators will not be allowed to interfere with the enjoyment of the students participating,other spectators or with the performance of employees and officials supervising the school sponsored or approved extracurricular activity. Spectators, like the student participants, are expected to display mature behavior and sportsmanship. The failure of spectators to do so is not only disruptive but embarrassing to the students, the school district and the entire community.

To protect the rights of students to participate without fear of interference, and to permit the sponsors and officials of sponsored or approved extracurricular activities to perform their duties without interference, the following provisions are in effect:

  • Abusive, verbal or physical conduct of spectators directed at participants, officials or sponsors of sponsored or approved extracurricular activities or at other spectators will not be tolerated.
  • Verbal or physical conduct of spectators that interferes with the performance of students, officials or sponsors of sponsored or approved extracurricular activities will not be tolerated.
  • The use of vulgar or obscene or demeaning expression language directed at students, officials or sponsors participating in an sponsored or approved extracurricular activity or at other spectators will not be tolerated.

If a spectator at an sponsored or approved extracurricular activity becomes physically or verbally abusive, uses vulgar, or obscene or demeaning expression language, or in any way impedes the performance of an activity, the spectator may be removed from the event by the individual in charge of the event and the superintendent may recommend the exclusion of the spectator at future sponsored or approved extracurricular activities. (The ____________________________ Athletic Conference has approved this policy for conference-wide implementation.)

Upon recommendation of the superintendent, the board shall cause a notice of exclusion from sponsored or approved extracurricular activities to be sent to the spectator involved. The notice shall advise the spectator of the school district’s right to exclude the individual from school district activities and events and the duration of the exclusion. If the spectator disobeys the school official or district’s order, law enforcement authorities may will be contacted and asked to remove the spectator. If a spectator has been notified of exclusion and thereafter attends a sponsored or approved extracurricular activity, the spectator shall be advised that his/her attendance will result in prosecution. The school district may obtain a court order for permanent exclusion from future school sponsored or approved activities.

Approved________________________________ Reviewed ______________

Revised ___________________

NOTE: This policy reflects the Iowa trespass law and outlines a school district’s authority to enforce the law. This policy is not a mandatory policy. Boards can amend the language as needed to fit their individual needs. The sentence in parentheses and italics is optional language to be added if the school district’s athletic conference adopts a similar policy.
Legal Reference: Iowa Code §§ 279.8; 716.7 (1999).
Cross Reference: 205–Board Member Liability
504–Student Activities
903–Public Participation in the School District