Saturday, June 25, 2022

NHCS allow motivational performer to return with ‘watered-down’ version of anti-bullying show

Dane Britt speaks to the New Hanover County School Board about his anti-bullying show on June 7, 2022. (Port City Daily, Brenna Flanagan).

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — An anti-bullying speaker that uses motorcycle shows to spread his message will return to New Hanover County Schools.

The county’s school board voted 4-3 on Tuesday to allow Dane Britt to continue his performances, minus the motorcycle stunts. Judy Justice, Hugh McManus, Stephanie Walker and Pete Wildeboer voted for the motion; Stephanie Kraybill, Stefanie Adams and Nelson Beaulieu voted against.

“Some people would call last night a win,” Britt said.”I guess it’s a win in the sense of we can keep the show going, right?”

The New Hanover County Schools Board put a stop to Britt’s shows in April 2021 and told him not to continue until further notice. Britt claims the problems started after he posted a video of a show at Murrayville Elementary School on his gun shop’s Facebook page. 

Britt owns DB Guns & Ammo and uses its social media to promote safe gun ownership and training. He occasionally posts videos of his performances to garner donations, which funded the shows until 2020. Britt turned the act into a nonprofit, Stunt Shows for Kids, late that year. 

According to Britt, school administrators asked him to delete the post to avoid any perceived relationship between the school and the gun shop. He said he would not take it down. 

Then issues arose with the school board’s insurance policies, Britt said. The board does not have liability insurance to cover any accidents that may occur during Britt’s stunts. Members were still debating the policy requirements at Tuesday’s meeting. 

Stunt Shows for Kids usually combine music, parkour and motorcycle tricks, intertwined with messages about treating others with respect, leading with kindness, standing up for friends and building supportive communities. Britt performs across the tri-county region and has booked as far as Raleigh. 

Previous performances show Britt and crew sometimes jumping motorcycles over people, engaging in tricks on one wheel and having performers do parkour flips over bikes. Children watch from several feet away behind a steel barrier. 

“The difference and impact that we have on the kids whenever I do the motorcycle show versus whenever I do the music show is extremely noticeable,” Britt said. 

He said it was already “watered down” enough that some high and middle schoolers no longer think it’s cool. Before the all-out motorcycle ban, Britt said he has gotten rid of drifting and riding backward, as well as moved to smaller bikes to make his show as safe as possible. 

“It’s a lot of cheesy stuff, but we just have a blast with it and we make sure the kids have a lot of fun with it too,” Britt said. “It’ll be the same message. It’s just the vessel is changing.”

A former student of New Hanover County Schools, Britt transferred to Pender County’s school district after he was bullied at MCS Noble Middle School. He said the mistreatment he experienced caused him to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as cutting, and to this day still has nightmares about how he was treated early in his youth. 

For the last decade, he has been trying to prevent other generations of schoolchildren from going through similar trauma. He said his relatability and skill at talking to kids without shaming them is crucial to connecting with his audience. 

“You can take all that negativity that’s thrown at you and you can be a bitter person for the rest of your life, or you could figure out some way to make something positive out of it,” Britt said.

He explained motorcycles are an exciting tactic intended to inspire kids to pursue their dreams.

“As soon as we crank up a motorcycle and that noise hits them, they feel for the first time what most people have never felt before,” Britt said.  

The position of some board members and staff is that the schools are not insured if an accident were to happen during one of Britt’s performances. After shutting him down, the board asked Britt to increase his liability insurance, which he did. 

“I got all the demands met,” Britt said. “We got all the insurance that we needed to get.”

Dane Britt’s liability insurance states New Hanover County is additionally insured under his plan. (Courtesy of Dane Britt).

Still, the board’s attorney, Colin Shive, claimed the system wouldn’t be covered by Britt’s policy and would not be protected from a lawsuit if an accident were to occur. Clive said he doesn’t know if an injured person could file a claim under Britt’s insurance. 

“If Mr. Britt and his company have liability insurance, they would be protected, but the school system’s not protected in any way. The school system wouldn’t have insurance for any claim,” Shive said. 

Under Britt’s $3-million commercial general liability insurance policy, it lists New Hanover County Schools as an additionally insured party. The purpose of adding the system was to protect the school system from being sued; anyone wishing to file a claim would be directed to Britt’s policy. 

(Port City Daily sent a request for response to Clive on Friday, but it was not answered by publication.) 

The school board also said it could not afford to take out an insurance policy of their own.

Board members Beaulieu and Adams suggested the conversation was futile when the board has yet to pass a balanced budget. 

“We’re talking about what’s best for the school system, and we’ve spent more time during budgeting season trying to find special insurance with money we don’t have,” Beaulieu said.

Board member Justice suggested parents be asked to sign waivers to attend the show as they would be for field trips. Board members and Shive warned that option might ask too much of parents. 

“We can’t wrap kids in cotton,” Justice said. “Our kids need role models outside the regular box. [Britt] is a good role model.”

Several board members said their concerns were not personal against Britt, rather an effort to protect the students and school system. 

Britt said other schools outside New Hanover County continue reaching out; he is performing eight times as many shows this year compared to 2021. 

“There’s been no other time ever in the history of this thing that I’ve done this many shows or had this much this much desire for them,” Britt said. “So it’s like there’s a silver lining with everything.”


Reach out to Brenna Flanagan at brenna@localdailymedia.com.

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