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Verbal altercations prompt Oaks Park to add a chaperone requirement for the skating rink

The move comes after what staff described as several unusually intense or lengthy verbal altercations among teenage skaters.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oaks Amusement Park has introduced a chaperone requirement for teens during certain hours at its roller skating rink, a move that staff said comes in response to an increase in the intensity of altercations between young skaters.

Under the new policy, which took effect Aug. 19, all guests ages 17 and younger must be accompanied by an adult age 21 or older during Open Skate sessions from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. One chaperone is required per six minors.

"It's for a narrow bit of our operation," said marketing and events director Emily MacKay. "Friday and Saturday nights only, only in the roller skating rink."

The new policy is in response to a rise in unruly behavior from some teen skaters in recent weeks, according to MacKay.

RELATED: After fight, Oaks Amusement Park closes early on Friday

That doesn't include a series of fights on July 22 that resulted in the police being called and the park being shut down for the evening, she said — that was an isolated incident that took place elsewhere in the park.

But there have been some recurring incidents at the roller rink too, she said, although none of them have risen to the level of the July fight. Occasional verbal altercations are nothing new, but recent episodes have been more intense.

"Somebody bumped into somebody, or somebody looked at someone's boyfriend, you know, whatever was going on there," she said. "Kind of the normal stuff, but we're seeing that kind of more quick to escalate, more quick to be prolonged, kind of running your mouths at each other all night, and then it makes everybody uncomfortable and it's not fun for anybody."

The policy is limited to Friday and Saturday nights because they're the most densely-packed, she said, and it only applies to the roller rink because it's known as more of a teen hangout, whereas the rest of the park tends to see more full families visiting together.

RELATED: Pittock Mansion, Oaks Park roller rink and others reopening after months of being closed

"It's always the hope that kids will get the message of 'hey, there's consequences here — if we don't behave well, we don't get to come without mom,'" she said. "It's more fun to hang out there with just your friends, we get that, but we'll just have to watch and see how things go."

There are probably multiple factors contributing to the rise in incidents, MacKay said, but since a lot of the verbal spats have involved teens in a specific age range, she speculated that one of the causes might be school interruptions during the pandemic.

"Middle school years, where you start to go to school dances, you start to do all these things where there's some social aspect — that was not happening," she said. "And now they're of an age where, historically, you'd be like 'oh yeah, my kid is 15, they can go by themselves' — they may have missed some of those developmental steps because they were home for a couple years. It seems reasonable to think that would contribute."

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