Trump hate rhetoric fuels rise in school racial, ethnic tensions: educator survey

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By Amanda Litvinov, photo above courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Educators across the country have reported alarming incidents in which students are bullied by peers spouting anti-immigrant, anti-minority rhetoric they have heard during the course of the 2016 presidential campaign, primarily from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his supporters.

“Build the wall!” chanted students at a high school basketball game in Indiana last month, referring to Trump’s campaign promise to build a wall along America’s border with Mexico. The same week, Iowa students from one high school yelled “Trump, Trump, Trump!” during a ballgame against a rival school whose student body is half Hispanic.

Two third-graders in Virginia taunted classmates in March by saying, “When Trump’s president, you’ll be deported.”

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Now, a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project confirms that the hostile tone and bullying behavior like that seen at Trump campaign events is having a profound negative effect on individual students and entire school communities.

Through an online survey, 2,000 K-12 educators answered questions about what they are seeing at their schools. Nearly 70 percent of those educators said students have expressed concerns about what might happen to their families after the November election, stating that most of those students are immigrants, children of immigrants, and Muslims.

More than half of the teachers surveyed have seen an increase in hateful language, with more than a third seeing an increase specifically in anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant speech.

The survey questions did not name specific presidential candidates. But in the comments section, Trump was named five times more often than all the other candidates combined.

In their comments, educators expressed deep concern for targeted students, and many noted that they’ve never witnessed hate speech this pervasive.

“Students are hearing more hate language than I have ever heard at our school before,” commented a high school teacher from Helena, Mont. Another teacher reported hearing a fifth-grader tell a Muslim peer “that he was supporting Donald Trump because he was going to kill all of the Muslims if he became president!”

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Students are suffering panic attacks, fearful for their well-being and that of their family, and some no longer want to come to school because they believe that their classmates hate them. Other students, including some who aren’t being targeted, are confused and upset by the rhetoric they hear from presidential candidates and their classmates that conflicts with the American ideals of acceptance and freedom they have learned about at school.

Some middle and high teachers expressed concern that students talk about the presidential election and political process as a joke. Others report a rise in the number of students who are incapable of discourse, resorting to yelling to get their point across — modeling the behavior witnessed time and again as Trump and his supporters clash with protestors.

The report reveals another unfortunate aspect of the “Trump effect” — 43 percent of teachers surveyed say they are hesitant to teach about the 2016 presidential election, citing fears of stirring up students and facing accusations from parents or administrators of forcing students to engage in polarizing political discussions.

“Last election was amazing in my class!” commented a teacher from San Antonio. “We even learned about electoral votes using other first-grade classrooms. Not this year!! Not touching it!!!

Reader Comments

  1. Give me a break…Obama has been trying to divide and stir up hateful speech everywhere he goes….pro Muslim, Black lives matter….all a plan to bring on race riots…who is the bully?

  2. I had no dog in this fight until my middle schooler came home saying he was told by a classmate he would be deported as soon as Trump made president. Fortunately, the school handled it immediately without my having to get involved. There ARE many stories like mine that have not gone viral, but that parents and teachers are a witness to.

    The problem is that people forget “illegal” is a status, and not a description. So it’s dangerous when people believe you can identify an “illegal” by just how they look, as was in the case with my son, who happens to be half white. So his classmate was mistaken.

    On sight I may look illegal (as was assumed about my son) because I am of Mexican heritage. However, I am US born and my parents are US citizens. In fact, there is no one in my family, who has been here for generations, who is illegal. There are teachers, registered nurses, doctors, police officers, and small business owners in my family. My brother just joined the Army and is in basic training as we speak. Both my husband and I are also veterans and have traditionally voted Republican because of such.

    However, this year we cannot in good conscience support the Republican Party with Trump as the front runner. He is rude, crass, and reckless; and I cannot imagine the damage he could do if he were given the privilege of representing our great nation on a world stage. We would have an American version of Kim Jong-un on our hands, a loose cannon.

    If you think his words and actions don’t make him “responsible” for these occurrences of hatred or he has “no influence” on his followers, you are fooling yourself. It’s like saying parents aren’t responsible for their children mimicking their words and behaviors. As teachers we all feel that pain.

    I most certainly blame Trump and his irresponsible behavior and words for negatively influencing the masses and that negativity to trickle down into the homes of families and into the minds of children, the most vulnerable of all. Trump’s negative influence is to blame for my child, in this day and age, experiencing hatred and discrimination. Why? Because from the mouths of babes, spews the word “Trump.” Say what you will.

    1. Your other choice will add 20 billion more to the debt and 100 million actual undocumented people to our country. You sound like a great parent that can teach your child how to handle the situation peacefully, but Hillary will give your child no future opportunities… hard choice, but it’s bigger than one incident.

  3. WHY is the NEA posting this ridiculous hit piece? Simple. Donald Trump has expressed his intention to abolish the NEA – and return the education of America’s children to the individual towns and states – like it was when I was a kid – and our level of education in America was second to none.

    Mr. Trump is the one candidate standing in the gap for Americans who for way too long have endured the Left’s Communist Utopian Nightmare. Leftist indoctrination of our children ends on Inauguration Day, when President Trump is sworn in. We’re taking our kids back!

    1. Gotta love the Liberals who down-vote those of us in favor of returning the authority of educating America’s children to the Local Level, as it used to be. All I can assume is these sheeple who think the Federal Government is better qualified to raise our children than we parents are, don’t mind our public schools’ downward spiral into the abyss since the Feds centralized all the power.

      Perfect example is their nonsensical methods for solving math problems. But, “nonsensical” seems to appeal to Liberals. It’s a way of life. They’ve been spoonfed by the Government since the cradle, so what can one expect? Garbage In – Garbage Out.

    2. America is still #1 in education. We educate 90% of our population, which most other countries do not do. When accounting for poverty we are #1. We have the highest child poverty rate of any advanced nation in the world. Nearly 25% of our children live in poverty. Family poverty is the most reliable predictor of low test scores. As far as the election goes, schools won’t improve if the funding keeps getting diverted to the publishing companies and private, for-profit schools. Neither candidate will do much there. I am not a Hillary fan but Trump may not actually have a relationship with truth. One can see how much he diverts from facts and truth on the fact checker web sites. The election is between the first woman candidate and the world’s worst misogynist. Only in America!

  4. Can you say unsubscribe? First of all, the article states the survey was sourced from the Southern Poverty Law Center which is a left-leaning, polarizing, extremist operation. Would be interesting to see how the questions were worded to guide the answers to the results they were expecting. While Trump may not show proper tact, he is the only one aware of the U.S. being handed over to a globalist agenda (Agenda 21, in fact). Please educate yourself more about the TPP and the many other illegal treaties our current and previous politicians are signing our country’s sovereignty over to an external, un-elected, and un-taxed embodiment that will very well strip all of our rights as free-thinking citizens. The petty grievances that special interest groups present to rally the troops to vote their way will seem like small potatoes to what direction we are headed. All this dribble about Hate speech is a leftist agenda to control free speech. The centrist, leftist NEA is a waste of tax payer dollars. Teacher representation makes sense at the local/State level. Hillary for Prison 2016!

  5. I am tired of all the third grade name-calling tactics, and, while I do not care for Trump’s course personality, I do intend to vote for him in the fall. He is a popular candidate who puts Americans first in American politics and the only candidate who could begin to reunite a sorely divided post-Obama nation. My sister actually voted for Obama twice but supports Trump in this cycle!

  6. Trump exercises his right to speak freely and honestly about difficult issues. Blaming others for their own action and feelings is something I would expect out of my elementary students. People who hate control their own actions and have not learned the first habit of being highly effective… Being proactive…controlling your own actions and emotions…and no, I’m not voting for Hilary Clinton like you are trying to encourage your readers.

  7. Incredibly biased and slanted. Why are we publishing opinions on presidential politics in an educator forum? While I do decry much of the tone in the current race, the reality is that this is democracy and free speech in action, and democracy is inherently messy. If you don’t like that, try on an autocracy for the fun of it. Many of these issues (immigration, security of borders, security from outside threats, etc) fueling much of the rhetoric are grounded in truth to many Americans. Study history, folks. We’ve been through FAR, FAR worse in our society, and we all still managed to survive just fine, and make good decisions. As a young student, I saw violent riots on college campuses and remember Kent and Jackson State…and I learned from it all. Compared to the election rhetoric, our students hear and read far more hate and nonsense in our streets, in pop culture and on the internet. Get over it and stop being nanny educators. Kids will figure it out, and they are tougher than we think.

  8. I can not believe the NEA gets away with being this biased, and, yes, hateful. I am not a Trump supporter AT ALL, but how dare you blame him for kids being hateful. It is no worse than it ever has been. I have seen white children being harassed and bullied for years. They often will not fight back or report because they are afraid of being called “racist” . Where is your report on that? Additionally, while I would despise seeing any of my Hispanic students deported, the fact remains that allowing illegal immigration is reckless and dangerous for ANY nation. If students are anxious it is most likely the some members of their family are here illegally and have broken the law. ANY child that lives with parents who have broken a serious law, tend to be anxious. This newsletter is vile because it does nothing put push a distorted view of our country and our profession. PLEASE stop putting this stuff out. The profession has enough educational issues to address, so why would you waste your time and our money are this divisive and one- sided political rhetoric?

    1. While there is a lot of emotion in this comment, I empathize with some of the points. Children are innocent and depend on the adults in their lives to guide and protect them. Who is to blame? There is not a single one, but numerous. Our problems in education did not begin with “this” political process. Yes, politics are a definite influence, and I believe large government should play a less role. Large government should be instrumental to state and local governments as efforts toward individualizing and recognizing the various factors geographically, culturally, etc..to unite each state as a healthy whole. The major challenges and negative effects we are facing as educators working with our children and their parents/caregivers and our school systems are numerous when it comes to the blame game. Among one of the most important jobs in America, educating our children, is the least in priority when looking at salaries, benefits, and extremely high demands placed on teachers and the profession. Some perceive that in our country believe it is totally the responsibility of the educational system to fix all. Though this is unrealistic, effort currently exists to do just that. Teachers and the profession are greatly disrespected in our country even though most enter the role with the biggest heart and dream of enabling children to develop as the most productive, well-rounded, happy person that will grow to reach full potential; thus making a difference in America. However, teachers are not the primary educator and the economical, social, and political factors dictate and are often detrimental to the entire profession. The positive goal teachers are committed to and thus jump on board for with pure, wholesome intentions and dreams to make a difference in children and in the educational profession as a whole, too often result in rude awakening. Teachers willingly endure expense and demand to continue educational classes and standards to stay certified, an atypical schedule of a reasonable work day, and a sad salary. In addition, teachers frequently give it all only to discover it is the role that gets slammed, unappreciated, and disrespected in our own country; yet this profession is key in the great challenge of helping “Make America Great Again”.

  9. How do you even sleep at night. All of your finger pointing and biased blame game politics show clearly where the hate comes from. I pray that educators are smart enough to see your agenda.

  10. This year’s presidential race sickens me immensely. I can’t believe that there so many people that continue to support Hillary Clinton blindly. When I hear of Hillary supporters I realize that there is a huge disconnection to the real world and that most people pretend to insist that they do not have the time to truly investigate her constant lying and evilness. Please research ALL of the candidates dates. Trump is so immature, rude, misinformed, racist, etc…but I will vote for him every time over Clinton. Clintons supports rapist! She laughs about how she was able to get reduced time for a man raping a 12 year old. She mistreat the secret service men that provide safety for her. She has lied about everything! She. Overs up all of Bill Clintons affairs and rapes. For all those who do not believe Bill Clinton could rape someone and get away with think of Bill Cosby…for years he got away with it! The clintons illegally receive funding from all of the major cooperations, foreign countries countries the elite and have amassed a multibillion dollar industry. Please be a life longer learner and learn more about the clintons. Please be a crital thinker and investigate about the truth in politics. We are the most powerful country in the world and this is the best we can produce to lead our country.

  11. There has not been a single incident or accusation that was backed by facts or quotes other than, “build a wall.” Of all the lame excuses for bad behavior, they blame a presidential candidate?

    Teach students about the election and citizenship or suffer the consequences. Encouraging ignorance is not the answer. No candidate will ever change someone’s mind – we either agree and vote them in or not.

    Apparently there needs to be a few citizenship workshops for educators that are professionally challenged.

  12. If we are going to blame the candidates for setting a poor example for our students, then we need to blame them all. The Clinton’s have taught children about infidelity and lying. Trump has taught poor judgement and name calling. Cruz has taught how to cheat someone else out of their spot or greed. They have all taught sarcasm and anger, they have all lied and tried to cheat each other for their own selfish gain. We don’t talk about it in the classroom, it just makes me sad. When my students ask me who I am voting for, I tell them that I am not happy with any of the choices.

  13. It’s disappointing that the blame for these survey results is put on Donald Trump. Is that because it was too difficult to put in on Bush? Doesn’t the president’s mandating the ceasing of deportation or stopping the enforcement of a law have anything to do with it? What a mess he has left for the next president. When you ignore things they just don’t go away. Is anyone surprised that a survey of educators blames the republican candidate?

    1. John are you serious??, LOL. To even try to blame President Bush on racsim is a joke. Never in history has there been such division in our country as now, since the Obama administration has been in office. Seriously, the facts are obvious to all.

  14. It’s sickening my wife is co-opted into paying dues to support your one sided political activism. I’m not a Trump supporter but sure not supportive of the majority of your political leanings either. You got lucky this recent case was held during Supreme Court deadlock because you would have lost

  15. I have worked in a high school in Dearborn which is 96% Muslim for the last 16 years and the level of bullying within the Muslim population has not increased due to Trump. They have been behaving horribly for years and this is nothing new. You would not believe the language and comments which are made in the classroom and in the hallways. I am embarrassed to say I work there. I feel so sorry for the future of America.

  16. I’d like to know how many teachers took part in this survey.
    I think it’s ridiculous to blame Trump for the bullying problems in school. Bullying has been going on forever. It’s not new. Maybe children are learning it from television shows where comedy is really bullying and picking on other people. Watch commercials closely and see the bullying there too. Blaming Trump for the bad behavior of our students is ridiculous. Bullying is not new, it’s been going on for generations.

    1. I totally agree with Jane. The TV impersonators and parents are more to blame since kids don’t watch the political debates and most don’t watch the news.

    2. Its obvious this article is biased in favor of Democrats and their agenda. However to be biased and show one anti-Republican view is irresponsible. Just because you are a majority does not give you licence to be overly biased and a propaganda tool.

      We need to respect the views of both parties/candidates or we become biased and a political bully. What kind of example is that for our students?

      How about an article about how Hillary’s husband was impeached? How about an article about Benghazi? No that wont fly with a majority of Democrats wielding this propaganda tool in our face.

      More and more, I am sick of the sycophant and oligarchy methods used by this publication which are self serving and non-representative of all teachers.

    3. First, we stopped watching the debates because of this very reason. When in the history of this nation have parents been forced to turn off the debates because of how inappropriate they may be for our children? Second, my middle schooler comes home saying Trump is all everyone at school is talking about. Three, he’s now being pointed out in class and told he’ll be deported as soon as Trump makes president. There is no mystery here. This new bullying campaign has a name, it’s called Trump. The bullies aren’t hiding it. They say his name proudly. Yes, bullying is old news but it doesn’t make it acceptable that it’s being invigorated by the likes of a would-be president, and that it’s occurring where it hadn’t occurred otherwise and in greater numbers.

  17. A lot of things could be said here. I’ll just say that I have never in my life had the antipathy toward a candidate the way I have for Chump. His policies really would move us a step closer to fascism and he’s brought troubling elements of our society out of the closet. He makes the other Republicans, nine of whom are fit for office based on their own statements, sound reasonable.

    Hillary is not ideal but she’ll be pulled in a positive direction by the people, and even in her worst moments our alliances with other countries will stand.

  18. Trump is by far the most stupid ass that ever ran for president. And anyone who supports him is equally as stupid!

    1. I guess that would be me in the stupid category. I suppose I could say the same about anyone who is stupid and un-American enough to support Hillabeast. Liar, cheat, arrogant, obnoxious, want more adjectives to describe her? But I won’t say that anyone who supports her is stupid, but I would say they do need to wake up and before America is gone.

      Here’s the conversation if (God forbid) she ever gets elected: Alan Dershowitz? Hi, its Hillary, yes, Hillary Clinton. Do you do divorce law? One thing I do want to keep is the New York mansion. I just so love, really love New Yorkers. Oh, you are from Boston? Well no matter, I hear you are pretty good.

      Just let me know how much is your fee, But I won’t be able to collect my $300K lecture fee until next term or until I am impeached.

    2. I agree totally. An Ass is an Ass and will always be an ass. Socially, Trump is lacking civility, is misogynistic, narcissistic, egotistical, megalomaniacal, and lacks truly emotional maturity. In terms of being a Homo sapien, he is the weakest link and unfortunately natural selection did not come into play here. Quite frankly, Trump needs to be directed to the corner for time out for his inappropriate behavior.

      1. Your criticism is laced with labeling and rude comments. I hope you will never teach my children or anyone else. Your opinions are exactly that, and should be expressed with tact and respect. Boo, you are a foul keyboard warrior.

    3. Calling someone stupid for not believing in what you believe is showing how ignorant you are. You should be ashamed of yourself for this post.

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