by David Sheridan
Campaign rhetoric usually flies right over the heads of students, going largely unnoticed. But not in 2016.
This year the rhetoric has been so inflammatory, especially Donald Trump’s, that it has incited both bullying and violence in schools.
Take Action ›
Take the Bully Free pledge. Click here ›
Last week, for example, a Wichita State University (Kansas) student Khondoker Usama was attacked at a Kwik Shop near the campus by a white man who called him “brown trash” and yelled, “Trump, Trump, Trump.”
When the attacker got back on his motorcycle, he circled around Usama, repeating, “Trump will make America great again.” Usama is a senior from Bangladesh.
“Build the wall!” That was the chant at a high school basketball in Indiana. It was directed at the players and fans from a predominantly Hispanic school by kids from a majority-white school who were waving Trump signs.
In a third grade class in Fairfax, Virginia, two laughing white students let the immigrants in the class know that they would be sent “home” when Trump becomes President. Fortunately, the teacher acted decisively, communicating with the students that they were engaging in inappropriate classroom behavior and letting the parents of the bullied students know what had happened.
The incident went viral on social media, and one educator in another school described what happened as “Trump poison.”
In Buffalo, NY, NEA member and English teacher Kelly Gasior is the go-to person for bullying prevention in her school, Lorraine Academy. She has organized 5K runs to raise money for bullying prevention professional development for the staff and anti-bullying dramatic presentations at student assemblies. And she is very concerned over the campaign’s impact on the students.
“We’ve made great progress in our school in preventing bullying, but we still have a lot of work to do. Now we have these candidates who are using bullying and insults to win the Presidency. What a horrible example they’re setting for our students.”
Gasior led a Student Council discussion about the impact of the Presidential campaign, and the students voiced both concern and confusion. One student said that if he said the things some of the candidates were saying, he’d be punished. “How come they get away with it?” Another student wanted to know, “If a candidate bullies his way to the White House, is he going to support bullying prevention in our schools?”
Kelly Gasior has taken the NEA Bully Free: It Starts With Me pledge. So can you.