Boone County Schools to use Charlottesville as a teachable moment

UNION, Ky. -- With Boone County Schools gearing up for the first day of classes Wednesday, plans are in place to use the case of Cooper High School graduate James Fields Jr. as a teachable moment.

A teachers' meeting Monday dealt with topics like bullying, tolerance and Fields, the 2015 graduate who is now accused of driving a car into a crowd of people protesting against a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virgina, Saturday.

Fields wasn't the focus of the meeting, but Principal Michael Wilson said he knows that word has spread that he graduated from Cooper. So, the teacher meetings focused on addressing questions and making sure everyone feels comfortable accepting one another.

Wilson said he remembered Fields as a quiet and reserved student.

"Because you're quiet and reserved doesn't mean that you're up to no good or thinking bad thoughts and wanting to do harm as well," Wilson said.

Former Cooper teacher Derek Weimer recalled Fields' views were radical as a teenager.

"He felt that whites were superior," Weimer said. "He felt that the views of Adolf Hitler espoused were correct in some way."

MORE: Charlottesville attack suspect James Fields Jr. accused of beating his mother

A former classmate also said Fields "would proclaim himself as a Nazi" in his high school days.

Wilson said the incident made the school reflect on what they could have done and what they can do moving forward to reach students. So, when students get back to class Wednesday, there will be one overriding theme.

The message at Connor is: respect, tolerance and see something, say something if a student's behavior makes anyone uncomfortable.

"If there's a gut feeling that something's not right, make sure that you just share that with someone so that we could follow up with that," Wilson said.

They have similar plans at nearby Ryle High School. There will be a poster in every classroom stating no matter who you are, you are accepted here.

That was the theme planned even before the events in Charlottesville.

Ryle guidance counselor Tracy Schaefer and Principal Matt Turner want to make every student fell welcome on Wednesday. The poster urgest acceptance for ethnicity, faith, accent, appearance, gender identity and other traits.

"This is a safe place and we put students first - not their interests, what they look like, what they have on necessarily - but that students come first no matter what, and we are here to educate them and we are here to provide them a safe place to learn," Schaefer said.

It's a message that is designed to counter the white supremacist views of Fields and others.

"We have to be teaching tolerance to our students - of understanding other people's viewpoints - that we have to learn to accept people for who they are and also we have to value each of the things that we can bring out individually in each other," Turner said.

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