SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - A big homecoming game this weekend in Savannah has been postponed.
The Savannah Chatham County Public School District postponed this weekend's Beach High School homecoming football game against Savannah High School to Sept. 30 following the shooting death of 16-year-old Jaheim Morris.
The Beach High School alum Facebook page posted:
Police believe the shooting to be gang-related.
"We don't have any gang issues in the school," said Sheila Blanco, SCCPSS public information manager. "We have not had any gang incidents or any incidents of violence in the school that are gang related. What students may or may not be involved in off campus is not something we can control. We have not had any gang-related fights or incidents that I am aware of, and I did check with our campus police chief today. He double checked with the principal, and there have been no issues and no administrative actions taken against students for any gang-related activity. Now, whether students may be involved in gangs or not, I cannot tell you. I can't tell you what activities they're doing once they leave the school campus, but I can tell you that we have not had an issue with it on our campus."
Blanco said while the district can't control violence, it does respond to it, and leadership decided holding two big events between rival high schools wasn't the best idea after last weekend's shooting.
"You can't assume nothing's going to happen two weeks from now that wouldn't have happened this weekend, but I think in any type of situation where emotions may be high, as in this incident just happened, emotions may be higher now than they will be in two weeks from now," Blanco said.
Savannah Chatham Metro Police said the department is aware of the rescheduled game and is working with the board of education to ensure safety at the rescheduled game.
"We do not discuss exact security plans, but we do have a plan in place," said Keturah Greene, SCMPD public affairs officer.
Former Beach High drum major and current state Rep. Carl Gilliard, D-Garden City, said canceling a favorite tradition over safety concerns means it's time to recognize there are things this community needs to deal with.
"Guns don't die," Gilliard said. "People do. We've got issues around us right now that we in the community, the faith-based community, have to step forward. We have to rise up about the violence that is around us and be quietly defiant to say, 'Look, we're going to live. We're going to enjoy the happiness of battle of the bands, homecoming games.' We should have the opportunity to live and to go to public facilities and to be free and to be safe. And when there is a possibility that there might not be a safe atmosphere, that poses some good questions to say that we've got some things that we need to deal with."
Gilliard said he remembers some altercations during his high school years, but nothing this extreme.
Blanco said the district has canceled school events because of violence before. Blanco said on Friday, October 3, 2014 the district canceled after-school activities at Savannah High and postponed the school's homecoming game because of a shooting in the neighborhood the day before.
"This is not the first time an event has been canceled because of violence in the community, and unfortunately, it probably won't be the last," Blanco said. "I would like to say that it would be, but we have no way of knowing. The bottom line is, everyone knows that there is violence going on in a number of Savannah neighborhoods, and we are conscious of that fact. Our schools are in all of those neighborhoods."
The district sent this email to Beach High parents Tuesday night:
Blanco said Superintendent Ann Levett, who is a graduate of Beach High School, spoke to students about the decision Wednesday morning. She said they were disappointed, but understanding. Both Gilliard and the Beach High School Alumni Association said they respect the district's decision, and agreed student safety is the priority.