‘I’m Going to Reassure Them That They Are Safe’: Talking to Students After the Election


by Cindy Long

Stories are flooding social media from parents whose children are afraid of what the 2016 presidential election results might mean. One boy with Autism was crying because he saw Trump mocking a disabled person. A teenager who is gay is afraid of what he will do to the LGBT community. Muslim students are asking if they’re going to be safe; Latino students are asking if they will be deported.

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In partnership with parents America’s educators are offering support and a safe place for kids to talk about their concerns, like in Robert Ellis’ first grade classroom at Washington Elementary School in Richmond, California.

“I arrived this morning determined to provide these students with the support they need,” he says. “I’m not sure what the tone will be like over the course of the day, but I know they’re fearful. I’m going to reassure them that they are safe. I don’t want them to shoulder the burden of worry and concern.”

Ellis’ students, who are mostly from low-income and Hispanic families, have a very sophisticated understanding of government for a group of first graders. They’ve learned about the different branches and checks and balances, and Ellis will remind them that no one person can make the decisions that affect the country. They have to be agreed upon by different parts of the government and the voices of the citizenry.

“I’m also going to tell them that nothing is going to change overnight,” Ellis says. “I want them to feel safe. As educators, that’s what we do in difficult times.”

Demetrio Gonzalez, president of United Teachers of Richmond CTA/NEA acknowledges that in the wake of the election, there are students and kids hurting.

Throughout his district, many kids will go to school scared that it might be their last day in this country. Many kids will go to school scared that their parents will be sent back to their countries of origin. Some might feel defeated and broken.

The election results will have a traumatic experience on our students,” Ellis says. “The best thing we can do today is be there for them, talk to them about their experience, and listen.

Hold them and tell them we love them, and that in moments of uncertainty and fear, we have to hope and believe we will have a brighter tomorrow. We can reassure them that this country was built in the backs of people who persevere and people who have gone through struggle. Hold that sad student a little tighter and please do not forget to also take care of yourselves in your incredibly challenging roles, but remember that at times we are all they got.”

Talking to High School Students

Teaching tolerance and acceptance is a top priority for Fakhra Shah, a Muslim teacher at Mission High School in Oakland, California. When the election results became clear last night, she came up with tips and lessons for educators to use in high school classes where kids are from diverse backgrounds.

“I hope you will take the time to put all lessons aside and talk to students about what has happened and how they feel,” she says. “Let them say what is on their minds, this is crucial for our schools and our communities.”

Shah’s Class Discussion Tips

  • The objectives of the discussion should be to let students express their concerns and voice their thoughts and feelings, gain feelings of empowerment and hope, and feel safe and respected.
  • Ask students to speak one at a time and validate their feelings by saying things like, “What you are saying is valid,” or “I hear you,” “I support you and I understand you.” Let them speak, guide the discussion, and use a talking piece if necessary.
  • Offer students hope and empowerment. Offer them opportunities to uplift themselves and their communities. Ask them what they would like to do or express. Can we come up with a plan to uplift our school community?
  • Tell them that we demand justice and equality and we will keep on fighting for those rights.
  • Tomorrow and every day must be a day of empowerment, hope and justice.


What Do We Tell the Children?
Tell them, first, that we will protect them. Tell them that we have democratic processes in the U.S. that make it impossible for one mean person to do too much damage, says a teacher writing for the Huffington Post.

Facilitating Difficult Conversations
How can we as educators best support our students as they process the results of this divisive political season? “Fostering Civil Discourse” is a free resource that offers strategies for establishing a safe space for sensitive topics, creating a classroom contract, providing opportunities for student reflection, and modeling respectful civil discourse.

Reader Comments

  1. Many liberal teachers have contributed to the frenzy! I am a Trump supporter and an educator. I have 2 high school students who heard ridiculous comments from their high school teachers after their candidate didn’t win. How about sticking to teaching the curriculum!! My 9th grade daughter came home from school distraught after peers suggested she was racist, hated gay classmates, etc. From what my children experienced at a top US school the rude comments and attacks all came from Hillary supporters.

  2. Bob – I AM thinking for myself and what I see is that your side offers me nothing tangible when it comes to resources + support. In the past I’ve suffered under unfunded mandates like No Child Left Behind at the federal level and budget cuts by republican controlled legislatures at the state level. Maybe when your party starts working for educators and the public system and not against it, then I’ll re-assess my position.

  3. Seems the headline for this article is not quite on the money. If you tell an illegally here student (being supported at the expense of taxpayers whose kids are getting shortchanged) that you ought to feel safe here, you are lying. Especially if their family happens to be one of the 10-20% of illegals who are involved in criminal enterprises.

    You might tell them to move to Chicago where Obama’s right hand man has just reinforced the idea that Chicago welcomes illegal aliens.

    1. Perhaps we should tell them to move to Chicago or another sanctuary city. This is a disgusting comment. Most of our kids have no say as to whether they came here. Most of their parents are trying to get by and not getting rich. Sending kids back to countries where they can’t make a living because of free trade agreements like NAFTA or your criminal gangs is not a solution I will do whatever is necessary to protect my kids.

      Comments such as this no longer can go unchallenged or be dismissed. If you voted for Chump, you own the racism that he has encouraged and that his supporters display.

      1. Maybe the parents who came here illegally ought to leave? How about they work to make their own nations acceptable? It is good to know you will do ‘whatever necessary’ to protect ‘my kids.’ So I imagine that includes illegal actions like so-called sanctuary cities? Perfect. Bring them here illegally then teach them how to continue illegal activities. And then, complain there is not enough money for our public schools while we educate and pay for illegal aliens. Makes a lot of sense. Are you really an American who believes the constitution is the basis for our laws?

  4. Az-Cowboy – The electoral college decided the winner not the voice of the people. Hillary won the popular vote. Be that as it may, this is what I will say to my students: a true winner doesn’t win by exhibiting the worst features of human character, preaching division, or by showing a lack of respect for different races, religions, women, and the disabled. That’s not the basis on which this country was founded. Donald Trump may have won, but he’s still a loser. The ends don’t justify the means.

    1. You sir, are something special. Do ‘ya think there might be any thought to the idea the constitution of the country is being followed? That the Electoral vote has some meaning? You might not like it, but you ought to work on amending the constitution.

      You scare me, a lot. I assume you teach American students? WOW!

      The only disappointment you should have is that the teach associations of this country poured million of your hard earned union dues into support of the losing side. Time for that to stop

      1. Bob – A few days ago your candidate and the right was crying the whole system was rigged. Now you’re all for upholding it. Funny how the shoe is suddenly on the other foot!! As for my remarks regarding our new president-elect, I’d like to see you twist in the wind justifying him as a role model for kids. This should be interesting.

        1. Anybody who can legally become a billionaire certainly deserves to be listened to. Again, a myopic view from a liberal thinker. Few recent presidents are worthy of being role models for kids. Not necessarily their role. Anyone thinking that Hillary is a worthwhile role model needs to get their head out of the sand.

          Of course the system is rigged. Trump is not part of the ‘system.’ WIKI leaks emails showed Hillary’s crew rigged they system against the liberals’ darling, Sanders. Her role in rigging the system when she was Sec State is well documented. Yes, the system is rigged. Not the voting system other than not checking ID’s.

          Could you please cite where ANYBODY would hold Trump as a role model for kids?

          You are still confused about what the rigged system comments refer to.

          1. Sorry but you’re confused Bob. In a tweet Trump said the “electoral college is a disaster” as part of a rigged system. He backpedaled just last night on 60 minutes. Now all of a sudden, he respects it.

            1. Yeah you are right. Sleazy opportunists. What cave have you been living in? Good Lord man, what thorn is stuck in your foot?

            2. Bob – It’s pretty simple. Trump is the thorn. I have respect for the presidency but I don’t respect this man as our president.

          2. Most people who become billionaires, let alone net worths of $10 million or more, do so by breaking laws and screwing people.

            1. Brilliant observation! Just like the Clintons, Kennedys and many of the liberal ‘families’ that have worked to turn this nation into a socialist state on the backs of hard working tax payers. I am sure you have lots of documentation to support the keen insight of your observation

        2. Actually, the votes are still coming in, and won’t be all counted for a long time. The electoral college is designed to make sure that densely populated places like California and New York do not dominate and decide all issues.

          How about you just explain to your students that our system gives a voice to all types of people.

          I’m not saying a darned thing to my students. You people have made them afraid for absolutely nothing at all. It’s disgraceful.

    2. Hanns,

      The founding fathers of our country created the Electoral College so that votes of lower populated states in our country would have their votes count in an equitable fashion, when compared to more densely populated states, such as California, Florida, and Texas. In two of the last five presidential elections it is true that winners of the popular vote, have lost the presidency. However, President Clinton lost the popular vote, yet won the Electoral College vote, one time in the 90s. Additionally, Nixon did the same thing in one of his elections.
      We are too large of a nation to rely on the popular vote, which is essentially a direct democracy, like the ancient Greeks had. Such a system would make it impossible for smaller states and populations to be fairly represented.
      FInally, our country has barely survived Obama’s “Fundamental Change.” Many people like me voted for Trump not because we thought he was great, but rather that he would save our country from socialism, globalism, protect our Second Amendment rights, improve our awful economy, create jobs, bring energy independence to the U.S., protect us from terrorism, mend our broken borders, roll back progressive regulations that take our freedom and stifle our creativity in business, and protect our religious rights. Trump has flaws, but he didn’t use a foundation to become obscenely rich, nor did he destroy thousands of emails that prove Hillary’s guilt and corruption. We are a very large portion of the U. S. population, and we are sick and tired of seeing liberal progressives like yourself, destroying the wonderful America that we grew up in

      1. Get your facts straight, please. Hayes, B. Harrison, G.W. Bush, and now the bigot Trump are the ones that lost the popular vote, but became the president as the result of the Electoral College.

      2. John – My original remarks were directed towards AZ_Cowboy who said and I quote, “the voice of the American people decided that Trump would be the better person.” This is clearly not the case since Hillary won the popular vote regardless of the electoral result.

        As for our president-elect and his “flaws” as you call them, I feel they disqualify him to be our leader. My only hope is that surrounded by others he can be constrained until someone competent and temperamentally fit comes along to replace him.

        1. Be sure and explain to them that people rejected Hillary because she is a criminal who broke many of our national security laws, took money from countries who treat women and gays horribly, lied to the FBI to Congress, let four Americans die in Benghazi, and lies every time she turns around.

          She is a horrible person, and she would have been a disaster for the country.

        2. Do Hillary’s flaws, which are numerous and serious, disqualify her from being president? After all the laws she broke, there is no way she should receive a security clearance. She let four Americans die in Benghazi. The Clinton Foundation is just a front for their slush fund. She lies all the time, and she lied to the FBI and Congress. She had a secret server in her bathroom. She claims ignorance all the time.

          Her flaws are a lot, lot worse than Trumps. Instead of you liberals going hysterical and scaring kids over nothing, why don’t you teach them about the Constitution and about how briliiant our founding fathers were? Shame on you if you do otherwise. All of you.

          1. Connie – The charge that Hillary is a “criminal” is unproven. What laws were broken? On the other hand Trump’s unfitness to lead is clear from his own racist, divisive, misogynist mouth. Sorry but I can’t rationalize this to my students. To you, I guess insulting the disabled+minorities is ok? Bragging about grabbing a woman’s “vagina” is not a deal breaker to you? In what reality are these words acceptable? “But oh, Hillary was careless with her emails.” Gimme a break.

            1. Careless with emails? It is clear you were never entrusted with government classified material. If any military person carelessly handled classified information the way it was proven that Ms. Clinton did, (and lied about it) they would (at the very least) be removed from the service, likely charged with violation of federal laws and most likely prosecuted.

              Your girl peddled influence such that all sorts of undesirable individuals paid her disgusting, philandering husband hundreds of thousands of dollars for meaningless, empty speeches in exchange for favorable US government consideration.

              She lied about her experiences (shot at on the tarmac avoiding sniper fire, attempting to join the USMC….. on and on). She allowed Americans to die at the Libyan embassy because of her non engagement. But as she commented……. What difference does it make?

              It sure seems she found out the difference it really does make.

              Gimme a break, indeed!

              Just because her guilt has not yet been proven, it is clear her family operates on the fringe of the law with complicit endorsement by many others and various departments in the government. She is unfit to hold any elected office.

            2. Bob – The FBI found no criminality against Hillary, only carelessness in the handling of classified material. She not a criminal and operates no more on the fringe than your own president-elect. End of Story.

            3. I would be careful with the ‘end of story’ thought. One other thought is that those who will prosecute the Clintons are waiting for the existing president to get out of office. There is a concern, even with just indictments or openly discussed investigations, he would pardon Hillary to protect his own involvement in their nonsense and protect what he perceives to be a contributory, positive legacy. A lot of people want to forget and dismiss the Clintons as a sloppy foot note in history but there are plenty of others who sincerely see the Clintons’ ‘above the law’ attitude with disgust. So, might want to hold the end of story approach for a while.

          2. The “facts” are as such, Congress refused to fund more security. Yes four people died in Benghazi, how many THOUSANDS of soldiers have died, been maimed, destroyed by the war Bush started because he had “bad advice”. Ever think of them, their families and friends? Trump has cheated many out of their money by refusing to pay them. Every time he declared bankruptcy he cheated people. He is a playboy who started with Daddy’s money. He has never had to scrabble for money, for a job, for anything. He just buys his way along. He is a huge joke in a bad toupee. Hillary is not perfect, no one is, but at least she can talk to people without the “F” bomb. She does not discriminate against people for their sexual preference or handicap or choice of religion. (You are allowed to be a Muslim in this country. We have freedom OF and FROM religion.) She is not crude, rude and socially unacceptable. She understands the meaning of the word diplomacy. She has the experience and knowledge that it takes to be the leader of the free world. And how is DT supposedly bringing jobs here when everything with his brand is made in China or third world countries. He is a joke on the American people which they will discover to their regret. When he starts messing with my retirement and millions of others, there will be consequences. I can’t wait until he tells the leader of some nation to “F” off!!!

        1. They are not. President Clinton won a plurality of the popular vote in 1992 by 5% over 2d place George Bush. The last time the popular vote loser won the presidency in 2000 was a disaster. Hillary will win by a quantity of 4 times as much. Get ready for a disaster. Plan accordingly.

          1. Please elaborate. Exactly what disaster ought I be planning for? I am thinking lower taxes, less national debt, more good jobs, greater international respect, less welfare handouts, fewer illegal immigrants, term limits for politicians. Which of these ‘disasters’ should we be planning for? What can of activities would the panning include ? Help me out here.

            Should I send some crayons and play dough to colleges so the over indulged students can overcome their disappointment?

  5. Obama did not and would not EVER say the horribly disrespectful things about any person or group of people that our current president elect did. I am a teacher trying to clean up the mess brought on by an incredibly DISRESPECTFUL poor excuse of a person who calls himself an American.

  6. First of all, Hilliary Clinton did win the popular vote, so we need to get rid of the Electoral College which lets gullible states decide our elections. In case you forgot, this country was built by hardworking immigrants of all ethnicities. And According to demographers this election is probably the last election where old uneducated white guys and other ignorant types rule the rest of us. Ride off into the sunset cowboy. From A fairminded white liberal whose great grandparents wete immigrants

    1. Which are the gullible states? Is there a list somewhere?

      Old, uneducated, ignorant? Ride off into the sunset? My oh my, a person whose great grandparents were immigrants. Did they come here illegally?

  7. What I would rather teachers say to students is this: suck it up! The election was fair, the outcome fair and Trump won. Deal with it. In the words of Obama, if you want different outcomes then win elections. Sorry, but the leftist Marxist agenda of liberals lost, and the voice of the American people decided that Trump would be the better person. Grow a pair, get a spine, you soft wimps.

    You know who it is ok to be intolerant about: white conservatives. If there are kids hurting, too f-ing bad. Get over it. You didn’t hear about white kids hurting when Obama was elected, did you? Liberals are just brain dead and soft.

    1. Thank you so much for providing the perfect example of why this campaign and election result was so toxic for our country.

      Rather than describing how you are feeling about some reactions to the results, you disparage educators who are simply trying to deal with the processing of ALL students, those who see hope in the president elect and those who fear him.

      Clearly (and hopefully) you are not an educator working with our kids.

    2. Oh, cowboy, I hope and pray you are not a teacher with that horribly biased opinion. So sad to hear you think it is too *** bad if kids are hurting. What we need is more tolerance, not less. The opinions you shared are what is going to inspire violence in this world. Take it down a notch.

    3. The media continues to whip up the protest frenzy. Assuming that the demographic observed in the news who are protesting is really the protesting group, I draw two conclusions: (1) illegal aliens are concerned, as they well ought to be and (2) the pie-eyed college students who were naïve enough to think there is such a thing as ‘free college’ are not slapped in the face with a good healthy dose of reality.

      Perhaps someone on the left leaning side could share with the rest of us how ‘free college’ would work. Please explain where the free” teachers come from, the free buildings, the free infrastructure, the free books, the free computers, the free campus security, the free campus health care, the free rooms , the free means…..

      I have never quite grasped the free concept I guess. Maybe the concept should have been: college paid for by your working parents through raised taxes??

        1. No, not illegal. One needs to be politically correct and note: Undocumented. Saying illegal might hurt someone’s feelings, it could make kids cry and their illegal, whoops, undocumented, parents nervous.

      1. And JR, just who would your new president be? Should we all be allowed to choose? George Carlin once did a bit that said: Don’t blame me, I didn’t vote! Maybe we should all just follow whomever we like as president. Very mature concept.

      1. Can you please explain how Trump’s win was less legitimate than Obama’s? I did not know there were degrees of legitimacy in presidential elections. I guess we learn new things every day. Why don’t you go get out your crayons and play dough. Perhaps some grief counseling? Get ready, set, color! Try to stay in the iines.

  8. This article makes the false assumption that all educators feel the same way about Donald Trump. If you look beyond his sometimes fiery rhetoric, you’ll see that his policies are actually quite moderate. He’s the most LGBT friendly Republican candidate I’ve seen and he never “mocked” a special needs person (taken way out of context). Donald Trump might actually be able to clean up Washington. Give him a chance and quit the fear mongering!

  9. This article makes the assumption that all educators feel the same way about Donald Trump. If you look beyond his rhetoric, you’ll see that his policies are actually quite moderate. He’s the most LGBT friendly Republican candidate I’ve seen and he never mocked a special needs person (that was taken way out of context). He might actually clean things up in Washington. Stop the fear-mongering and move forward!

    1. SD, You are missing the point here. The NEA and other education organizations speak for ALL their members. It must be so. They take their monthly dues and use that money to extend influence, ya know, like advocating that lobbyists should not be allowed to influence politicians. Giving money to liberal thinking politicians is OK because those multi term elected politicians will support the leaders of groups like the NEA et al so those leaders can keep their do nothing jobs. Geesh, why does this all sound like a ridiculous, circular argument? Oh wait, because it is! Keep supporting the NEA with your hard earned dollars, great organization.

      1. People like Bob with his obvious support of the alt. right agenda would like nothing more than a dissolution of the NEA and other education organizations which have long been a united voice in favor of democratic candidates. I would say to Bob – what has the right and the Republican party done to better public education lately…other than make repeated attempts to de-fund it?

        1. What conservative groups generally support is getting the federal government out of local education issues. I suppose you would rather have people in Washington, being paid off by lobbyists, telling you how and what to teach? How logical is it that any group universally supports one party or the other. That is a patent dismissal that there could be any idea of value from someone in another group. Pretty narrow minded view of things. But that is what groups like the NEA support: If it is Democratic its good, anything else is bad. Come on, wake up and act like you really can think for yourself. Show some courage.

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