MANSFIELD — If you’re attending a Madison Local Schools athletic event this year, you’ll have to leave your drones at home.
A new rule approved by the district board of education Wednesday prohibits the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles during district-sponsored contests, practices and activities without prior approval from the superintendent.
“District officials may deny admission or entry to anyone attempting to use a UAV until the event has been completed,” the newly adopted resolution states.
Superintendent Lee Kaple said he recommended the resolution to the board in part as a deterrent for anyone who might attempt to spy on teams during practices.
Madison’s new rule comes after the Ohio High School Athletic Association adopted a similar policy, prohibiting drone use at any OHSAA post-season tournament event.
Kaple said his district has not had any problems with drone use during practices or events but is taking a proactive step to align with OHSAA policy and to prevent any future issues.
OHSAA director of information Tim Stried said the association’s policy officially took effect in August and will apply to all tournaments this year, the earliest of which is in October.
The decision to ban drones was primarily a safety consideration, he said, adding that the association was considered about the possibility of drone-related injuries to spectators.
“We just felt like the safety issue was such that we should just go ahead and not allow them for post-season tournaments,” Stried said. “For regular season, it is up to the host districts.”
Stried said the association has disseminated information about the new policy to districts on its website and through emailed publications but has not made a recommendation to districts about whether to allow drones at regular season events.
Though he could not provide a number, Stried said he has noticed many schools in the state are beginning to adopt rules like Madison’s to ban all drone use.
In Richland County, though, Madison may be ahead of the curve. Officials at other area districts, including Mansfield, Shelby and Lexington, all say they have not considered or adopted such a policy.