Xiarhos Bill Seeks Protection for School Sports Referees

SANDWICH – A local lawmaker has introduced a bill calling for tougher penalties for those who assault officials working in school sports. 

Fifth Barnstable State Representative Steven Xiarhos’ bill would increase punishment for anyone who assaults a referee, making penalties the same as attacking a full-time public employee.

Xiarhos said that school officials in Sandwich reached out in hopes he would file legislation. 

This came after an incident in December when a student from Excel High School in Boston allegedly assaulted a ref during a high school basketball game in Cohasset. The student is facing criminal charges.

Xiarhos said that although some who officiate are public employees, many referees volunteer or work as independent contractors.

“Sadly there have been documented incidents where these people are subject to crimes committed against them while in the performance of their duties,” he said.  

Massachusetts State Basketball Board President Dave Engelson said these events have contributed to a shortage of referees for youth sports.

“If you feel like you’re going to a position and you’re going to be ridiculed and assaulted, why would you do that for whatever the wage is?” he said. 

Engelson said the bill could boost morale among officials and serve as a deterrent. 

“It may give pause to people who are thinking of doing something knowing there’s a specific law and consequence for assaulting an official,” he said. 

Engelson said that recruiting and retaining officials has been a challenge with what he said has been “a loss of perspective” with some youth sports spectators.

He noted that most games occur without incidents or any assaults on officials.

Engelson added that calls from referees typically balance out over the course of a game.

“That’s life. You have to learn how to deal with success and failure equally.”

By Brian Engles, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

About Brian Engles

Brian Engles is a longtime local of the Cape. He studied Film & TV at Boston University and in addition to his role at Cape Cod Broadcasting Media, he also works as a music instructor and records original songs.

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