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Nonprofit asks BOE to reconsider program

A nonprofit organization has requested a second chance to implement a program to help with addictions in county schools.

Stand in the Gap Prevention Coalition cofounder Dan Spurlock came before the Claiborne School Board last week to ask that it reconsider his program that focuses on drugs, alcohol and tobacco prevention and substance abuse training.

Spurlock said he had outlined the particulars of the program during the July board committee meeting, where he was apparently turned down.

“There may be a misunderstanding about the organization. We are a 501(c)3, nonprofit prevention coalition. We are incorporated as such. We are designated as a prevention coalition by the Tennessee Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse. And, actually, was awarded the first grant in this county to do prevention training.

“We’re required to do prevention coalition training and to implement new drug, alcohol and tobacco prevention training in Claiborne County,” said Spurlock.

Other coalitions are working with their county school systems to implement this program, he said.

“We didn’t think we were asking for something unusual. To also clarify, there’s no Stand in the Gap training or display information that will have any religious affiliations or intentions. Our training will be transparent and fully reviewed, in cooperation with the Claiborne school system.

“We were told we would not be allowed in the school system because it’s been suggested that Stand in the Gap is a religious organization that could possibly trigger a lawsuit as reference to the 1988 federal lawsuit the county went through under ‘religious proselytizing,’” said Spurlock.

He reiterated that his organization would work closely with teachers and others in the school district to ensure that it is a fully nonreligious training and implementation program.

“Our desire and intent is to give our children the best knowledge they can have to assist them in making safe and healthy decisions about their wellbeing. I read the board’s charter statement about what it wants to accomplish. That’s to train our kids up to have employment or to go on to college.

“What we know is – by pure statistics – if we can’t keep our children away from the involvement in illegal drugs and substance abuse, it will be the greatest factor to deny them a bright future,” said Spurlock.

He asked the board to allow a do-over presentation at the next committee meeting.

“As far as I know, in every school we go under a portal that says ‘In God We Trust.’ I have no doubt that some of our educators are Sunday school teachers or preachers. We have attorneys that stated they are Baptist deacons.

“Just as a teacher can come to school and do a job of teaching without prejudice, and just as attorneys can go into a courtroom and conduct law without prejudice, the Stand in the Gap Coalition – that’s all we seek to do is to bring prevention training and substance abuse education into our schools,” said Spurlock.

It appears the matter will be revisited during the Aug. 29 committee meeting that will be held inside the BOE Central Office meeting room. The public is invited to attend these monthly meetings.