Parents upset over commissioner’s speech about sex and drugs at 8th grade awards banquet


NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — A New Hanover County mother is upset and the school district is apologizing over comments made during the awards banquet at Trask Middle School this morning.

New Hanover County Commissioner Skip Watkins spoke to the students and parents during the ceremony.

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“He got up and started kind of funny with a joke, and then he proceeded to spend almost 20 minutes, discussing sex education and drug abuse,” Kelley Ahlers said.

He talked to the students about sex, drugs, and alcohol. Watkins said he started out by congratulating the students about their accomplishments and did move on to discuss decisions and unintended consequences.

“If I offended anybody, it was never my intention, never my intention. It was only my intention to help prepare young people for a major change in life. Going to high school is a major change,” Watkins said. “My intentions were to have an honest conversation with young men and young women, moving into a higher level of their life and to give them some, some basic fundamentals, and I apologize if I offended anyone, I really do.”

Ahlers, a parent who recorded a part of the speech and posted it online, is upset at the message. She says the comments about STDs, drugs, and sex were very inappropriate and children, especially 4, 5, and 6-year-olds who were there, did not need to be exposed to this as a discussion in the middle of an awards ceremony.

“We were expecting something along the lines of ‘it’s a beautiful world you’re going into, it’s exciting, we’re so proud of what you’ve done, look at the road ahead’. One of those kinds of things. Not ‘there’s a good chance you will get pregnant if you have sex or he even, I think, brought up a murder that happened last night in Wilmington,” Ahler said.

The New Hanover County School District released a statement.

“We understand that Mr. Watkins had good intentions with his remarks today; however, the subject matter was not what the audience was expecting, and the 8th Grade Awards Ceremony was not an appropriate venue for this particular message,” it reads. “We regret that this occurred and apologize to anyone that may have been offended.”