by Félix Pérez; image courtesy of Michael Vadon
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“I am a school counselor in Iowa, and we have definitely seen an uptick in aggressive behavior that I believe has been given root by a campaign season full of racially charged and mean-spirited messages from people like Donald Trump. Our students are watching and they do mirror behavior they believe is acceptable.”
Amy DeGroot-Hammer, Sioux City, IA
“Students are bullied in the school and even at the bus stop simply because of their ethnic background. Because some of the morals, or lack thereof, that Trump has tainted our schools with, I spend a great portion of my workday teaching students to respect others regardless of their nationality or ethnic makeup.”
Justin Johnson, Atlanta, GA
“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, Glen Rock, NJ
“I’m now having to address issues like a student saying, ‘Build that wall!’ when discussing immigration. I am seeing more and more the negative effect that Donald Trump’s campaign is having on my classes.”
Michael Thurston, Whitefield, ME
Educators across the nation, like those above, are reporting that the inflammatory rhetoric and behavior from presidential candidate Donald Trump on the campaign trail have led to an increase in student bullying and anxiety. That was the message as educators, counselors and experts on bullying joined together today in events in the key election battleground states of Iowa, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
They educators shared firsthand accounts of the “Trump Effect” in their classrooms as part of the launch of a digital and direct mail campaign by the National Education Association to raise awareness about the harmful effects of Trump’s divisiveness on America’s schoolchildren.
Utah teacher and NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said:
As educators, we teach our kids that kindness, collaboration and cooperation are important not just in school, but in in life. Donald Trump sets an example that teaches the wrong lesson. He calls women fat pigs, wants to ban Muslims from coming to the country, refers to Mexicans as criminals, and makes fun of people with disabilities. The rise in vitriolic speech in classrooms and the anxiety this causes for some of our most vulnerable students shows that Trump’s rhetoric is far more damaging than previously imagined.
Hillary Clinton derided Trump’s bullying and anti-women tirades at the debate. She referenced his degrading remarks about women throughout the campaign and over the years.
Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who joined Eskelsen García at a tele-briefing, said, “Millions of children across our country are watching Donald Trump unapologetically belittle people who are different from him time after time. He’s sending a disturbing message to our kids and it’s sinking in. Reports of bullying and harassment are on the rise in our schools, especially toward students of color, Muslim Americans and immigrants.”
The Southern Poverty law Center recently released a report that found that the presidential campaign is producing an alarming level of fear and anxiety among students of color and inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom. The results of a SPLC survey of 2,000 K-12 teachers found “a disturbing nationwide problem, one that is particularly acute in schools with high concentrations of minority children.”
According to the survey, more than two-thirds of the teachers reported that students — mainly immigrants, children of immigrants and Muslims — have expressed concerns or fears about what might happen to them or their families after the election. More than one-third have observed an increase in anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant sentiment.
Columbus, OH, language arts teacher Joy Bock, who participated with Eskelsen García and Ellison in today’s campaign launch, remarked:
I start each school year off with lessons on the basics of our government. During a classroom conversation about the Electoral College, one of my students said something that broke my heart. Before the entire class, my student made a startling statement: ‘If Donald Trump wins, I’ll be sent back to Peru.’ I want to be very clear, this 14-year-old girl is an American citizen, born in the United States. She has never been to Peru, the country her parents immigrated from. My student told our class that her parents said, ‘it will not be safe’ if Donald Trump becomes president. She shared how scared her family is about the election. Now all of my students are worried that she will be sent ‘back.’ This very real anxiety and fear I work to calm on a daily basis is not an isolated incident.