Today is Hillsborough County Student Day at the Florida State Fair, which opened Thursday for a 12-day run.
Student Days this year have policy changes to improve safety and avoid a recurrance of the “wilding” that led to the ejection of nearly 100 youths on Student Day last year. That night, a 14-year-old boy was fatally struck by a vehicle while running across Interstate 4 after he was ejected from the fairgrounds.
The primary change requires that an adult accompany middle and high school students during the evening on Student Days. The adult gets in free but cannot be responsible for more than four students.
“This policy is intended to encourage more parent or adult supervision,” the fair authority says.
This year's student days are on Friday (Hillsborough County), Monday (Hardee), Feb. 15 (Citrus and Highland), and Feb. 16 (Manatee, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota). Public school students in those counties receive a free ticket to attend on their respective days.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office says there will be a larger law enforcement presence on Student Days compared with previous years, with many deputies in elevated stations. Also, more than 220 security cameras will be monitored in a command center.
Deputies also will be working to ensure parents are contacted if a student is ejected. Ejected students will be detained until they are picked up.
Here are the policies in effect for Student Days:
• Each student in grades 6-12 who enters after 6 p.m. with a free Student Day ticket must be accompanied by an adult, age 21 or older.
• The accompanying adult shall be granted free admission after 6 p.m. (maximum of one for each Student Day attendee).
• Beginning at 6 p.m., an adult may accompany up to four Student Day attendees.
• All day today, Hillsborough students using a Student Day ticket will be required to show a student photo identification card issued by the school district prior to entry.
An alternative form of identification will be approved for elementary school students, private school students, or others who do not have a student photo ID.
Students who are suspended from school will not be given a Student Day ticket.
On all days of the fair, the following items are prohibited:
• Bicycles, skateboards, roller blades, scooters.
• Unauthorized vehicles.
• Weapons, except for those carried and concealed pursuant to a valid concealed weapons permit.
• Fireworks, explosives or explosive devices, inflammables, and destructive devices.
• Alcoholic beverages, or any other food or drink.
• Controlled substances.
• Any other object or objects that may affect the safety and well-being of other guests.
• Pets, with the exception of service animals.