After a moment of silence to remember the people of Charlottesville, Va., amid the violence there over the weekend, Hall County school board members funded a proposal to give students incentive to “celebrate all that unites us.”
The board approved $3,400 to give each of its 34 schools $100 for the “We Celebrate All That Unites Us” initiative. The money will provide “tokens of appreciation” to students who demonstrate the theme through essays, poems, artwork, songs, video productions and other ways, according to Superintendent Will Schofield.
Schofield said the new program was a direct response to events in Charlottesville where a “Unite the Right” rally of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and alt-right supporters was held after the city removed a statue of Robert E. Lee. One person was killed and 19 were injured when a man attending the rally allegedly drove into a crowd of protesters. Two state troopers also died in a helicopter crash as they were coming to help at the rally site.
Before the board voted on the proposal, Schofield said, “Isn’t it true how often it is the children, it is the students, it is the boys and girls that remind us what truly is important in this world?”
Isn’t it true how often it is the children, it is the students, it is the boys and girls that remind us what truly is important in this world?Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield
“As an organization that wants to be seen as the most caring place on earth, we budgeted — your board of education budgeted — $3,400,” he said. “That would be $100 for each of our school campuses for opportunities to reinforce the theme of ‘We Celebrate All That Unites Us.’ ... The potential is really unlimited.”
Board Chairman Nath Morris credited board member Sam Chapman, who he said “suggested that the students can probably do this best.”
“A lot of times we disagree, but we need to disagree without being disagreeable,” Morris said. “A lot of the actions of people across the country are kind of concerning. I think as part of our character education component and part of our community being involved in things of this nature, it’s putting something in the hands of students to be able to kind of draw on that unity and being community and what do we all stand for is a good initiative.”
Morris called the violence in Charlottesville “sickening.”
“Everybody ought to be able to express their opinion, but hopefully, they can do it without the violence and without the conflict that we’ve seen,” Morris said. “It’s affecting a whole community up there.”
Morris said he and Schofield discussed the idea Monday.
“It was laying heavy on his heart, and he wanted to try to do something,” Morris said.