Report titled “The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on our Nation’s Schools” finds that the campaign is producing an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color.
A survey of approximately 2,000 teachers by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SLPC) has found that the presidential campaign – particularly and unsurprisingly the rhetoric from GOP front-runner Donald Trump – is having a profoundly negative impact on schoolchildren across the country, in particular children of color and other ethnic minorities.
The report, aptly titled “The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on our Nation’s Schools,” finds that the election cycle is producing alarmingly elevated levels of fear and anxiety among minorities, many of whom worry about being deported and face constant discrimination from their white peers about being “un-American.”
In the survey, teachers reported a notable increase in the bullying, harassment, and intimidation of students whose races, religions, or nationalities have been the verbal targets of candidates.
“We’re deeply concerned about the level of fear among minority children who feel threatened by both the
incendiary campaign rhetoric and the bullying they’re encountering in school,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen. “We’ve seen Donald Trump behave like a 12-year-old, and now we’re seeing 12-year-olds behave like Donald Trump.”
The online survey, while certainly not conducted scientifically, nonetheless provides the most comprehensive source of information to date about the impact of this year’s election on the country’s classrooms. Including more than 5,000 comments from educators, the data shows a disturbing nationwide problem, in particular with districts counting high minority populations.
- More than two-thirds of the teachers reported that students – mainly immigrants, children of immigrants and Muslim-Americans – have expressed concerns or fears about what might happen to them or their families after the election.
- More than half have seen an increase in uncivil political discourse.
- More than a third have observed an increase in anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant sentiment.
- More than 40% are hesitant to teach about the election.
While the survey did not identify candidates, more than 1,000 comments mentioned Donald Trump by name. In contrast, a total of fewer than 200 contained the names Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. More than 500 comments contained the words “fear,” “scared,” “afraid,” “anxious,” or “terrified” to describe the campaign’s impact on minority students.
Among the most terrifying, several teachers have reported that students have begun using the word “Trump” as a taunt or chant as they gang up on others to bully. One teacher wrote that a fifth-grader told a Muslim student that he was “supporting Donald Trump because he was going to kill all of the Muslims if he became president.”
“Schools are finding that their anti-bullying work is being tested and, in many places, falling apart,” said the report’s author, Teaching Tolerance Director Maureen Costello, “Most teachers seem to feel they need to make a choice between teaching about the election or protecting their kids. In elementary school, half have decided to avoid it. In middle and high schools, we’re seeing more who have decided, for the first time, not to be neutral.”
The findings appear to overwhelmingly corroborate at the education level the overall injection of hate Trump’s rhetoric has emboldened across American society. Last December, it was reported that the Ku Klux Klan had begun using Donald Trump as a talking point to recruit new members and Stormfront, the most prominent American white supremacist website, is upgrading its servers to deal with “unprecedented” surges in traffic to their website.
For many entrenched in White Supremacy long before Trump’s rise, his rhetoric is believed to have “normalized” their causes, allowing them to talk openly about issues they previously felt would have fallen on def ears.
“Demoralization has been the biggest enemy and Trump is changing all that,” said Stormfront founder Don Black, “He’s certainly creating a movement that will continue independently of him even if he does fold at some point.”
In February, the SLPC released a piece entitled “The Year In Hate And Extremism,” which reported a disproportionate spike in the number of hate and antigovernment “Patriot” groups, along with terrorist and radical plots.
In America’s public schools, hatred has found its home in the form of severe bullying which, among many other travesties, exert a profound impact on mental health, emotional well-being, and their schoolwork. The SLPC reports hearing from “dozens of educators about young students who expressed daily worries about “being sent back” or having their parents sent back.”
In many cases, says the SLPC, the students are American citizens or come from families that are here legally. Black Americans aren’t exempt from the fears and anxieties, either. Many teachers reported an increase in use of racial slurs towards blacks, even among very young children. “My kids are terrified of Trump becoming president.” said an Okalahoma elementary teacher, “They believe he can/will deport them – and NONE of them are Hispanic. They are all African American.”
In schools where fears over the presidential campaign aren’t reported, a notable increase in racial trauma is being reported as well. “We do not have the language and hate of any candidate repeated at the high school where I teach,” said a teacher in Ferguson, Missouri, which has a 90% black population in its school system, “However, I do hear students wonder if they are being let in on what all white people truly think and feel. This is so disappointing and hard to combat.”