Editorials

Who’s to blame for the teen brawl at Worlds of Fun? Responsibility starts with parents

Cellphone video captures brawl at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City

Cellphone video posted by a visitor at Worlds of Fun captured part of a large brawl involving hundreds of teenagers Saturday night. The video was shared on Facebook by Madi-Lynn McDaniel of Kansas City.
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Cellphone video posted by a visitor at Worlds of Fun captured part of a large brawl involving hundreds of teenagers Saturday night. The video was shared on Facebook by Madi-Lynn McDaniel of Kansas City.

Officials at Worlds of Fun have tried this week to quell the fallout from a weekend brawl involving nearly 300 teenagers.

The incident and the ensuing negative publicity could hurt the amusement park’s reputation — not to mention the bottom line. Many customers have taken to social media to air grievances, and some have vowed to cancel their season passes.

Although several physical altercations did break out among small groups of unruly teens, the total number of people involved was overstated, Worlds of Fun spokesman Chris Foshee said.

One person was cited for peace disturbance and released at the chaotic scene, police say. Thankfully, there were no injuries reported.

The altercation was quickly broken up by local and park authorities, Foshee said in a statement. “The guests were removed from the park. Additional authorities were called on site by Clay County to ensure the safety of all involved.”

Fights are commonplace at Worlds of Fun, but the size of Saturday’s melee was notable and dangerous. Hundreds of unsupervised teens gathered to watch the developing fracas.

The dustup should serve as a stark reminder to parents: Unaccompanied minors have no business roaming the amusement park or its water-based companion, Oceans of Fun.

Both entities are privately-owned by Cedar Fair Amusement, which doesn’t impose age restrictions at either park. But it would be in the company’s best interest to consider a new youth supervision policy to help ensure the safety of all patrons.

Reasonable restrictions on unsupervised kids and teens wouldn’t be revolutionary. Some malls and movie theaters nationwide require visitors 17 and younger to be escorted by a supervising adult who is at least 21 years old after 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Some other attractions require children 12 and under to be accompanied by a parent or guardian 21 years of age or older at all times.

Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun could start there.

“We would hate to move to something like that,” Foshee said. “We’re very confident with the security that we have in place. But we are always looking at ways to improve the safety and security of our guests.”

They should keep looking. But parents, too, bear responsibility. And giving teens free rein on weekend evenings without a parent or guardian on the premises of the park is a dicey proposition.

Industry standards encourage allowing teens 14 and older inside amusement parks on their own. But who is responsible for the behavior of a few out-of-control teens? Police and park officials can only cover so much ground.

Officers are not babysitters and neither is park staff. Worlds of Fun should develop adult supervision requirements. And parents shouldn’t use the park as a glorified daycare service.

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