Students who sit in Conway High School’s cheering section during football season can rest easy — The Jungle will remain intact, as is, in its longtime location, school officials said Wednesday.
Joel Linn, Conway High’s principal of four years, said he wasn’t trying to stifle school spirit or crowd participation when the relocation of the student section, known as “The Jungle,” came up for discussion during a recent meeting with members of the student body; he was working to fulfill a responsibility as a school administrator to keep sporting events safe at John McConnell Stadium.
On Tuesday, @ClassyStudents, a student-led Twitter account posting on behalf of the school’s student section, revealed the occurrence of the discussion, along with an indication that Linn would make a final decision Wednesday on whether to relocate the student section away from the band and cheerleaders at stands in the south side of the stadium.
“We’d have more room and be in front of the visitor’s student section, but we’d also be further from the band,” one tweet read.
The issue is one of logistics, Linn said, and was not a reaction to anything that has happened at sporting events.
Linn said he meets with student leaders each year to discuss new ideas and opportunities to demonstrate school support, and also to discuss what are acceptable and unacceptable acts of sportsmanship at school events.
The idea to relocate The Jungle was offered as one option to cut down on congestion at the south end of the stadium.
“This is standard protocol. We were looking at ways to eliminate blocked access to some of the (wheelchair-accessible) ramps entering the bleachers,” Linn said. “We asked the students to give some feedback, and we decided that since the band and cheerleaders are on the south end, we are going to keep everything as it is and try to do a better job, logistically, to keep people from blocking those ramps.”
Jungle relocation is an idea that school officials may have to revisit in the future as the population grows, Linn admitted, but for now, everything will remain as is tradition.
On sportsmanship, Linn said the school would abide by guidelines set forth by the Arkansas Activities Association, the governing board for high school athletic programs across the state. (For a list of AAA guidelines, click here.)
Event regulations are the same regulations the school has been following for years, Linn said.
In recent years, sprinkling baby powder as the players entered the field had become a tradition among those in the student section, but Linn said that activity is no longer allowed.
“The students would throw it up in the air as the team was announced,” Linn explained. “But when 50 people do it, it starts getting in everyone’s eyes and noses and irritates the people around them.”
AAA also mandates no face or body painting, no yelling or chanting at opponents, no booing or heckling opposing teams or officials, and no demeaning acts, among other things.
Linn said the rules are necessary for maintaining order and ensuring safety and sportsmanship among gatherings of nearly 500 students and a large crowd of spectators.
“We just want everybody to have a good time and show respect when they come out to the games,” Linn said. “We love our student section and appreciate them coming out.”