Images of Swastikas mysteriously appear on blackboards and etched into school furniture. Kids bully other students over their racial and ethnic backgrounds. Students as young as fourth grade use words like “pussy” and “slut.” This is what it is like to go to school in Donald Trump’s America, according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The report, based on an unscientific survey of educators all over the country, details what 10,000 school employees saw in the days following Trump’s election. The dynamics relayed by the educators “are nothing short of a crisis and should be treated as such,” says the report. A vast majority of surveyed teachers report seeing increased rates of racially charged bullying, increased trauma and fear from targeted students, and less of a sense of community in diverse schools. Those who did not report these dynamics typically came from more racially homogeneous schools.
The study follows a similar report from the organization released several months ago, which also provided anecdotal evidence of increased rates of bullying in school as a result of Trump’s campaign. Educators said the new dynamics are unlike anything they’d ever seen before.
Ninety percent of educators who participated in the new survey said the president-elect has had a negative impact on their students. Eighty percent reported seeing heightened levels of anxiety from students who come from groups that have been targeted in Trump’s speeches, like immigrants, Muslims and students of color. Over 2,500 surveyed teachers said they have seen specific acts of bigotry since the election, like threats of violence, offensive graffiti and property damage.
“White males have been overheard saying, ‘screw women’s rights, fag lover liberal, build the wall, lock her up.’ The rebel flag is draped on the truck of a popular student, and the p-word has been used very casually, citing Trump as the excuse,” said one high school teacher from Michigan cited in the report.
Teachers reported seeing ugliness not typically seen after an election.
“Words that I have not heard in the past — racist, bigot, pussy, slut — are now used by my fourth-graders,” relayed an elementary school teacher from Minnesota.
Schools where most students come from minority groups reported fewer instances of overt bigotry. Still, teachers in these schools have seen signs of trauma in their students, who are nervous about what the next four years hold.
“A kindergartener asked me ‘Why did the bully win?’” said an elementary school teacher from Arizona. “Other kids who have been awarded student of the month and considered great examples for our school hid in a classroom after school and drew pokemon fireballs attacking the man. This is a serious issue that we have not clearly addressed.”
The report recommends that schools double down on anti-bullying strategies and work to support students who have been wounded by the election’s aftermath.
“Every school should have a crisis plan to respond to hate and bias incidents,” says the report.
Rebecca Klein covers the challenges faced in school discipline, school segregation and the achievement gap in K-12 education. In particular, she is drilling down into the programs and innovations that are trying to solve these problems. Tips? Email: Rebecca.Klein@huffingtonpost.com.
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