By Jesse Wood
Dec. 13, 2013. Roman Gabriel, president of Sold Out NC, a youth alcohol and drug abstinence education program, expressed frustration to the Watauga County Board of Education this week that the program was no longer being administered at Watauga High School – something that the school board was unaware of.
While Gabriel said the program is in schools across 16 counties, he was particularly frustrated that he has had to “fight for three years” to get the program offered in his own county’s school system. He strongly wondered aloud to the board whether the refusal to allow Sold Out NC in Watauga County Schools had to do with him being a Christian.
“I find that despicable if that’s what it really is because I don’t see any other excuse why,” Gabriel said, adding that after officials at Watauga High School recently said that Sold Out NC wasn’t welcome back in the schools, he began looking over past emails with WHS representatives and noticed that they made it very clear “not to speak or say the word of God.” He asked if the program was “really” kicked out because of its use of instructional time and the lack of measuring its effectiveness.
Gabriel continued that when he goes into the schools, he focuses on drug and alcohol abstinence and the program features secular inspirational statements such as “be intentional about success.”
The program consists of a 45-minute assembly once a year to middle school students and a pre-prom assembly in the spring. Using the influence of athletes, Gabriel, who is the son of a former NFL quarterback, invites athletes, who have pledged abstinence, to speak to the students. Also, an eight-minute “inspirational, high impact” entertaining film that features athletes is shown. During the program, Gabriel invites the students to make an online pledge to be abstinent and join Sold Out NC on social media platforms because this is how students are engaged these days.
School Board Member Barbara Kinsey noted that while she approved of the program, “I don’t like the accusatory tone here.”
Kinsey said that this board formed last fall and hadn’t heard once from Gabriel or anyone else about this program.
School Board Chair Dr. Lee Warren added that he has been on the board for the last 15 years and had no idea that Sold Out NC was no longer in WHS.
“I thought it was going well. This is new to me,” Warren said.
Two-term School Board Member Ron Henries added that he doesn’t ever recall this matter coming before the board in the past.
Gabriel mentioned that he hadn’t been before the board in two years. With the high turnover between superintendents over the past few years, Gabriel said except for the board hearing two years ago, almost all of his contact has been with the numerous superintendents in the recent past.
Kinsey mentioned that the board was listening to Gabriel but would have to go through a process of hashing it out with one another and taking time to look at all of the materials of the program.
“I feel like we hear you,” Kinsey said. “We just can’t make decisions from a presentation. We have to have time to look at the materials.”
School Board Vice Chair Delora Hodges added that she “certainly hope[d]” the program wasn’t kicked out of WHS because of any references to Christianity or God or Gabriel’s beliefs.
The board didn’t vote on the matter but expressed a willingness to explore it further.
Bill Dotson, a resident of Watauga County, spoke in support of Sold Out NC during the public comment portion of the meeting. He thought it was ridiculous that the program was ended at the school when it doesn’t cost the school system any money – especially in light of other drug education programs such as D.A.R.E. being underfunded or cut out completely.
“I just cannot sit here and tolerate it,” Dotson said. “Why would you want to dump it?”
In the crowd, former ASU coach Jerry Moore and a small group sat throughout the two hour meeting in support of Sold Out NC.
For more information, click here: http://www.soldouttv.com.