Clayton Schools to fight gangs with 'Midnight Ball'

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

You know how colleges have "Midnight Madness" to kick off their basketball seasons?

Well, Clayton County Public Schools is planning to do its own version of midnight basketball — just without the madness. The school system will host "Midnight Basketball Tournaments" at three high schools on April 22, and May 6. The tournaments themselves will be for high school students and their fathers, but school system officials said there will also be activities for families with younger children.

Billed as an outreach initiative the district, it is part of the national Midnight Basketball program, which aims to fight gang activity, offering basketball-centered activities for families, according to school system officials.

Rhonda Burnough, the school system's community relations liaison, said the idea for doing a midnight tournament came from Superintendent Edmond Heatley.

"Dr. Heatley has asked us to do this," Burnough said. "He had done tournaments like this when he was in California [as the superintendent of the Chino Valley Unified School District]."

The registration deadline for teams to sign up to participate in the "3-on-3" tournaments is April 8, and the registration fee is $15 per team. Burnough said a team can include students, and their fathers. Teams can sign up contacting Riverdale High School Assistant Principal Genghis Shakhan, e-mail at gshakhan@clayton.k12.ga.us, or calling (770) 473-2905.

The theme for the district's tournament, according to a school system news release, is "Off the Streets, and in the Schools." Burnough explained that being part of the national Midnight Basketball organization, the district is required to offer anti-gang components with the events.

"It's a way to get them [youth] off the streets, and to have that time with their parents, to have fun," Burnough said.

The anti-gang component will consist of 30-minute programs on the dangers of getting involved in gangs, which officials in the school system and several county law enforcement and juvenile court departments, have long acknowledged are a major problem in Clayton County.

Despite the tournament's moniker, much of the action is actually scheduled to take place before midnight. The tournaments will last from 8 p.m., to 12:30 a.m., with boys' tournaments taking place at Mt. Zion High School, which is located at 2535 Mt. Zion Pkwy., in Jonesboro, and at Mundy's Mill High School, which is located at 9652 Fayetteville Road, in Jonesboro.

Girls' tournaments will take place at Kendrick Middle School, which is located at 7971 Kendrick Road, in Jonesboro.