“Trump Effect” elicits “disgraceful” behavior from some students, strikes fear in others, educators say


By Amanda Litvinov


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Educators know that students have a much harder time learning when they are anxious and afraid.

That’s why educators are speaking out about the negative effects that the hostile, at times hateful, rhetoric emanating from Donald Trump’s campaign is having on the kids in their classrooms.  The “Trump Effect,” as it is widely known among educators, is stirring racial and ethnic tensions even among elementary-age school children.

The educators we spoke with identified Trump’s anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant proposals—which include threats of mass deportations and a pledge to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico—as drivers of conflict between students parroting his ideas and minority students (immigrants or not) who are targeted.

Even Trump’s campaign bumper sticker was enough to incite an incident in Mike Patterson’s auto shop class at South Tahoe High School in South Tahoe, California, last spring.

Students routinely bring their own vehicles in to work on during class, Patterson said. “Last spring a few students brought cars with bumper stickers in support of presidential candidates, and it prompted some truly appalling discourse,” Patterson said.

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The incidents usually started when white students talking about the wall Trump has promised to build on the Mexican border, directing their comments toward Hispanic and Latino classmates.

“I would actually hear things like, ‘After we get Trump elected, you and your family are going to the other side of the wall,” Patterson said.

Patterson intervened as soon as he heard such comments, explaining that such comments amount to threats to other students’ well-being. Usually, it was enough, but a few times he did have follow-up conversations with parents, Patterson said.

“In my 29 years of teaching, I’ve never heard this kind of bullying until this election. And it wasn’t a couple of isolated incidents. It dominated what kids were talking about throughout primary season.”

More than half of the 2,000 educators who participated in an online survey by the Southern Poverty Law Center last spring reported an increase in hateful language, with more than a third seeing an increase specifically in anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant speech.

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.

Those findings are in keeping with the stories educators shared with EducationVotes.

Here’s what other educators around the country have witnessed:


At first, my students were fascinated by Donald Trump. They would repeat things he’s said about “getting rid” of people. They thought it was funny to see him yell at people who disagree with him. But then he mocked a reporter with a disability. I asked my students to think about how they feel when someone makes fun of them for things they can’t control. It was definitely an “ah-ha” moment for my fifth-graders.

–Carole Gauronskas, elementary EBD paraeducator, Ketterlinus Elementary, St. Augustine, Florida


Normally, I invite my students to discuss elections because there is a respectful tone even if they disagree about the candidates. But this election I’ve seen too many students spouting nasty things Donald Trump has said, about immigrants especially. There has been so much inappropriate language and disgraceful behavior, it has been very disconcerting.

–Cynthia Meier Lota, fourth-grade teacher, Richard E. Byrd Elementary, Glenrock, New Jersey


“My middle school students were confused and frightened by Donald Trump’s threats about deportation. Ninety percent of my students are African-American. The way they understood it, Trump hates them and wants to send their families away, too. I walked them through the election process, the role of the president, and the fact that there are laws in place to protect them and their families. My students just really needed to hear from someone they trust that they would be okay.”

–Jennifer Conley, special education teacher, Newbern Middle School, Valdosta, Georgia


I teach in a small, rural school with a very small number of students of color. Last year I had a student of Mexican descent—a well-liked, popular kid. His friends started teasing him about “getting sent back home,” as Donald Trump yakked on about the wall. I believe these “jokes” were hurtful to my student, even though he would not admit it.

–Julie Rine, English teacher, Minerva High School, Minerva, Ohio


At my diverse school, many of my fourth-graders fear that if Trump is elected, they will be immediately thrown out of the country. That’s what they are hearing, so of course they are confused and afraid! I have tried to ease their fears by reminding them that Trump has not been elected yet, and that ours is a system of checks and balances.

—Holly Harris, fourth-grade teacher, Tortuga Preserve Elementary School, Lehigh Acres, Florida


We have a very socioeconomically diverse student body, and our school works hard to encourage students to embrace multiculturalism. Even so, we did have some students who adhere to Trump’s ideas stoking fears, primarily among our English language learners. So far our students have handled it themselves, discussing what constitutes hate speech and how to be tolerant when you hold a different opinion. It’s a testament to the culture we’ve fostered that our students have so far been able to rise above the tremendously negative, intolerant, at times hateful rhetoric that seems to flow endlessly from the Trump campaign.

–Nick Scipione, chemistry teacher, Glenbard East High School, Lombard, Illinois

Reader Comments

  1. I lived in New Mexico,in a border town. My bosses granddaughter was bullied by the Hispanic kids every day. There are buses that go the the border and pick up children from Mexico to go to school with her. The entire county is on the free lunch program. There are at least 5 elementary schools there. It’s crazy and out of control. We should help Mexico become a better more prosperous nation so these families can be happy and educated in their country. The drug trafficking problems in these border towns is so bad and so dangerous it’s not safe for anyone to be there. We have got to do something to stop the drug problem. That alone will help both countries.

  2. I am a teacher and Trump has my vote. This article is seriously the most ridiculous thing I have read in a long time. I’m going to use it in my AP Language class and my students with do a rhetorical analysis of it. I can’t wait to see them tear it apart.

  3. And do the “educators” actually explain the difference between Immigrantsand Illegal aliens? Between letting Muslims who are already out if harms way into this country without being vetting? And the safey concerns of letting them in? If I gave you a bowl of M&M’s and put it on you desk, then told you 10 were posionous, how long would that bowl sit there where any child could get it. DO you Job and explain WHY he says what he says. You might Learn something, (smhwa)

    1. If you use that analogy, extend it to rapists. One out of every sixteen men are rapists, and 30 per cent would rape a woman if they thought they could get away with it, according to statistics. How about getting rid of all men in the country?

    2. Also, people aren’t candy. They can be investigated, as they are, very thoroughly. We aren’t letting refugees into the country willy-nilly. It takes years before they are admitted. And as far as candy goes, people don’t seem to think that the possibility of toxic candy is enough to stop them from letting their kids go trick or treating!!!!!

      1. This country has been letting people in without vetting thoroughly. That has been the problem. Letting larger groups in at a time makes the chances of vetting well go down. If our country did what it is supposed instead we wouldn’t be in the mess we are

        1. What mess? The crime rate for immigrants is actually lower than the general population. Let’s be responsible adults and educators and stop playing into the politics of fear.

          1. You are exactly right, Christian. If a teacher makes a child fearful or lets another child bully him or her, she should be fired on the spot!! I certainly do not want that kind of so called educator teaching my grandson!! I worked in the school system. Working with disabled children. They get bullied all the time. But at the same time, I told them how rude and cruel they were being.

  4. I hope that teachers who are confronted with this situation are both responsible and honest. They must say that only illegal immigrants are at risk of deportation!

    1. Not true. Trump has threatened to deport Obama. He went after a judge because his family came from Mexico. He himself was born here but that didn’t mean anything to ze fuhrer. You elect a fascist he’s going to do fascist things. You could easily end up in a relocation camp right along side the mexican or muslim you yourself turned in to the gestapo last week….. Lots of people that ended up in Auschwitz were Hitler supporters. They eagerly turned in Jews to be exterminated. Then one day it was their turn to be cleansed. Trump is playing right out of the fascist playbook. Daemonize a group of people, convince everyone that they are the cause of ALL problems. Convince everyone they aren’t really human beings. So what you do to them doesn’t really matter. Create fear of “the other” and use that fear to seize power….. Welcome to fascist America. Hope you enjoy it. You WANTED it. Remember that when YOU are the one being shipped off to one of the camps.

    1. This country only exists because it invaded the land of the true Native Americans. Essentially, if you’re not Native American your ancestors were illegal. Why is this so hard to understand.

    2. Why no one. We should round them up and put them in slave labor camps. Make them build the wall. Round up all the gays, muslims, blacks, hispanics, etc. We’ll make America white again! Seig heil! *snicker* We get the government we deserve. Right now we deserve a fascist dictator that leads us to destruction. Hope you all really like living under fascism. Just shut the hell up when it’s YOUR turn to be dragged away in the middle of the night…..

  5. Thank goodness there are enlightened teachers who intervene to counteract the discriminatory rhetoric their students have been hearing during this election cycle. No child should have to fear deportation. Our public schools were created to educate all the children who walk through their doors, whether born in this country or not. Children need to feel safe in order to learn. The adults need to make sure they feel that way.

    1. Ms. Denn, our country was established, and laws put in place for LEGAL immigration. While I agree that children should not be influenced by hurtful comments, I do disagree with you and any other educator who offers that ALL children should be allowed into our schools, or that we the people of America should be footing the bill for the illegal actions of their parents. I know, the more children you have, the more money your school receives. While this most certainly sounds insensitive, it is also a matter of fact. As a “pure blood” Native American, I will go one further. Dare to take your skill set to a reservation and teach the most under educated children of ALL minorities. While I do have compassion, I have more compassion for those who are indigenous to this country than I am to those who are here illegally. You will forgive me (or not), but Democrats have created an untenable situation and during this very out of the norm political season children hear and see comments from many different people. It is an almost impossible situation to prevent, but please don’t lay the blame of this issue on the shoulders of Mr. Trump. Not when you have a Democratic nominee in the way of Hillary Clinton, who has lied to Congress, lied to the FBI, and has set an example of how to cheat people of a scale beyond comparison.

      1. David Land have you looked at any of Mr. Trumps business actions? Talk about someone who has lied.
        As a native american I would think you of all people would have zero toleration for someone as despicable as Mr. Trump. Trump could careless about minorities or immigrants, legal or otherwise, and if you honestly believe so, well you have been blinded. As an educator and also of Native American heritage I do feel there are many injustices in this country for many races and I find it deplorable. But to even imply the Democrats are to blame for this situation is not only grossly inaccurate but irresponsible. Ms. Denn never once directly put the blame on Trump, the author of the article did and Trumps words are creating anxiety in children. Trump is the one that is making horrible statements about walls along with a number of other deplorable ideas I do not need to mention. People, all people, deserve to live peacefully. I suggest you direct your anger toward the correct avenue, those running this country, Big Corporations; not at an educator who works tirelessly for children. You sound just like Trump, a bully.

        1. Yes he does.. I thank you very much for being informed. Which obviously, a lot of these people have not. They need to take a history course and educate themselves Thank for being a good and compassionate teacher. We need more like you!!!!

      2. Legal immigrants, legal…not illegal, unchecked , potential terrorists. One can not run around in fear of getting blown up by some nutcase jihadist and at the same time say…..let ’em in, we’ll pay. Legal. Legal, only.

        Oh my David, you have accused Ms. Clinton, wife of the nation’s worst philander, of crimes that she was never convicted of committing. So liberal thinking is that she must be innocent. Innocence and guilt are not opposites. But liberal, so-called progressive thinkers believe Ms. Hillabeast is an honest upstanding contributor to society. Its not their fault, its what they have been indoctrinated to believe, After all, if you pay hundreds of dollars to some teacher organization each year, they must tell you the truth.

        1. Bob, with your last comment you nailed it!! Education Unions are so far up the preverbal skirt of the Democrats, that it is not even funny. This said, my wife and I are not in that crowd. And at the voting box, that point will be made abundantly clear. I know my words are unpalletable for many, as most educators are loving, and caring people. You have to be given the lack of remuneration. However, you don’t serve blindly. If you want change, or positive change, you get away from the Obama administration. They were the ones who in fact exacerbated the illegal immigrant problem we suffer from today. Catch and release use to be associated with fishing. That is no longer the case. We are doing these people who enter OUR country illegally a disservice as well as the people of America. Think of the funds that would be available for failing schools if we were not paying for the additional children here as either anchor babies, or brought over illegally. Title I money might actually be able to be spent more wisely and have more of a positive impact on more needy American children. Frankly, I would truly love to see the Deptartment of Education go the way of the wind, and leave it to states to decide how to educate students. The US Government has proven that they do not know how to, or what is best for ALL. A one size fits all scenario does not work. Paying unions to spend millions of dollars to lobby legislators for x, y, or z is definitely not the answer. Educators need protections, but there must be a way to weed out the poor performing educators which is not based on test scores. I caught an English teacher downloading 35 gigabytes of music from Limewire several years ago. She was not held accountable. I caught students bullying a 6th grader, reported it to the Superintendent, and nothing happened except that the child committed suicide. Proper oversight by administrators without being onerous, should be the norm. Administrators knowing the educators, as well as the students, is reasonable, and allows for better assessment of educators. But placing 35 students in full time In School Suspension on day 1, is ridiculous. Not servicing those children is even worse. Having one educator in the room to manage these students is even more ridiculous. Some are indeed behavior disorder children, but some are just bored. I identified one child who was a mathmateical prodigy, but he was in there. No one took the time to test him!! When pulled out, he was a stellar child and remarkably bright. NSA would have loved to have had him. But the school system let him down as they have many times. Other regional schools are having to deal with the influx of non-english speaking illegal immigrant children. Some states are perhaps better equipped to handle this. Some are less so. The story is the same, no matter where you go. The bottom line is that educators should be free thinking, and if they want unions, then have the union answer to them, and not the other way around.

          1. In Massachusetts, probably the same elsewhere?? education organizations contribute lots of dollars to political campaigns. Teachers dues go to the NEA, state organizations, local associations and there would appear to be little input as to where the $$ go other than at the discretion of the leadership. One could argue they are elected by the rank and file, but certainly only a very narrow perspective is represented. One issue that comes up every year with absolutely no action is review of the Social Security rules. Year after year after year, promises of favorable action and nothing, nothing, nothing. But talk about some illegal alien being denied access to taxpayer supported services…..yikes!!!

            The one- party- only support for Democratic politicians is illogically supported by every education organization. Other comments on this site vociferously support comments like anyone who votes for Republicans should not be allowed to teach in a public school. Amazing how any educated person could think that narrow mindedly and agree with that proposition. Where does one get such narrow minded views?

            The political system is so broken is will take a huge wake up call to ever hope to get it straightened out. A couple of ideas that would start a move in the right direction would be:

            No-one, no person, no business, no enterprise of any sort would be allowed to identify itself as a contributor to a political cause. Any and all contributions could be in any amount but would have to be delivered (literally) to some neutral location, perhaps a religious building. 10% would immediately go to some efficient charity like Salvation Army or United Way. The contribution would be in cash only, delivered at night by a disguised person in an unmarked package. Any identification of the donor organization would be a felony and the money would all then be directed from the political group to a charity should identification occur, with no tax advantage for a contribution.

            Secondly, there must be term limits imposed on politically elected officials. As voters we now have that power; its called voting but most people seem to like re-elect and re-elect and re-elect the same people, same party, same family and then complain about the results. So, there needs to be a constitutionally mandated limit on how many terms or years an individual can serve. Kennedy’s Bush’s, Clinton’s, all need to be done with our political system.

            With some sort of control of who gives what to whom, we just might get a few original ideas and people who are truly interested in helping the nation, not the blood sucking leeches who now inhabit Washington.

          2. I really wish people will stop blaming the unions for these atrocities. I have lived in the south in two different states my entire left and a teacher the last 13. The unions don’t mean anything done here and don’t have that power. Yes, they rally for the awareness of laws and they help a little to protect you from vindictive administrators, but there help is so strangled by the “right to work state” that it’s ridiculous. We don’t protest or walk out or sick out not even when students or parents are being abusive, unreasonable, and always threatening to sue even when their students are wrong. Perfect Teachers…No! We have our issues, too, because we are human as well. Societal Ills come to the school through these students….poverty, mental illness, parent abandonment, homelessness, hunger, nomadic patterns, drug abuse, racism, hopelessness, etc…the list can go on and on. They don’t know how to handle it, yet, things must get better and hateful-filled speech is not the way.

            To address the article, I just saw last week where a couple of middle school students (African-American males) were getting mad when the social studies teacher was talking about the election and Trump gaining. Their thoughts were he is “racist”. You attacked the article and what the teachers stated. These are what students are thinking from the delivering words of Trump and how that is translated to them and people in their household. You missed the point..”Out of the mouths of babes”.

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