The sight of a parent yelling angrily at a referee at a youth league baseball game has become a classic symbol of bad behavior in the world of parks and recreation. Passions can run high during athletic programs, and conflicts can emerge over how residents use their parks facilities.
Because the community’s need for civility extends into parks, many parks and recreation departments have established codes of conduct for their facilities and programming. This can be as simple as posted signage stating expectations — for example, the parks and their programs are available for everyone to use, and attendees and participants should communicate appropriately, treat everyone with dignity and respect, and focus on fair play and enjoyment. For youth sports, departments will sometimes ask parents to sign a code of conduct acknowledging that the game is for the benefit of the participating children and that the parents should serve as role models of courtesy and friendly competition.
Some parks and recreation departments will include disciplinary regulations to make their codes of conduct more enforceable. City governments that choose this route should use ordinances to enter the rules into the city code.
Here are some of the elements that a properly devised parks code of conduct should have:
Codes of conduct will often prohibit these behaviors:
- Any form of physical, verbal or sexual abuse, including shoving, pushing, harassment, taunting or other forms of intimidation of participants or staff.
- Aggressive responses to official decisions — excessive throwing or kicking of items, yelling, or any other disruptive behavior.
- Obscene, profane or vulgar language.
- Abusing or vandalizing equipment.
- Obstructing the ability or others to use facilities, which can be anything from storing personal items on-site inappropriately, using amplified music without approval, taking up picnic facilities for a specified length of time, or failing to follow the rules posted for specific facilities.
- Possessing or drinking alcohol or illegal drugs, or attending events while intoxicated
- Carrying weapons. Note that the law governing the prohibition on the open carry of firearms in certain outdoor spaces, found in SC Code Section 23-31-235(c), was impacted most recently by the Open Carry with Training Act. State law specifies exactly the required dimensions of “no concealed weapons” signs. Find sample signs at www.masc.sc (keyword: open carry signage).
Procedures for ejections and trespass policy
The code of conduct can also detail how parks and recreation staff handle those who violate the rules. It can address these points:
- Verbal warnings issued by staff before they take any other action.
- Suspension from games, or ejection from facilities, including how soon violators must leave after being told to do so.
- When and how staff should proceed to investigate and issue trespass notices or suspensions of a person’s ability to participate in activities.
- For those suspended, the length of the suspension or process for reinstatement.
Parks departments should also make sure that staff is properly trained to handle difficult situations where an established code of conduct has been violated. They should also be trained on how to handle situations where an altercation leads to an injury.