The presidential election has had a significantly negative effect on students across the new country, many educators believe, according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). More than 10,000 school workers, including teachers, administrators and even counselors responded to the survey. According to the SPLC, the results indicate a “crisis.”
The results are consistent with previous reports indicating that K-12 schools have been a common site for incidents of hate even more so than on college campuses. The SPLC’s previous report calculated 183 incidents at K-12 schools in the 10 days following the election, and 140 at universities.
Nine out of 10 educators have noticed a negative impact on the mood and behavior of their students since the election, and many of them worry that this will carry throughout the rest of the school year. Further, eight out of 10 have seen “heightened anxiety” among minority students, including Muslim, Black and LGBT students. And four out of ten believe their schools are not equipped to respond to the widespread incidents of hate and bias that have unfolded since Election Day.
Hate incidents have occurred in record numbers since Election Day, with another recent report calculating roughly seven times the weekly average according to the FBI’s 2015 hate crimes report.
Teachers reported specific incidents they have witnessed in their classrooms, which target various minority groups. While many targeted fellow students, some were even targeting teachers. Among them are:
“The slurs have been written on assignments. ‘Send the Muslims back because they are responsible for 9/11.'” a high school teacher in Minnesota
“I’ve had a lot of students repeat the phrase ‘Trump that bitch’ in my class, and make jokes about Hispanic students ‘going back to Mexico.'” a high school teacher in Georgia
“Someone anonymously put a swastika with the Trump tag line ‘Make America Great Again’ on the desk of a Spanish teacher.” a high school teacher in California
“The day after the election, white students in my school walked down the halls harassing their students of color. One student went around asking, ‘Are you legal’ to each student he passed. Another student told his Black classmate to ‘Go back to Haiti because this is our country now.'” a middle school teacher in Massachusetts
Teachers also reported on the heightened levels of anxiety they have noticed in their students or that their students have reported:
“Many of my students feel fear, particularly my students of color, my Latino students, LGBTQ students and so on. They worry about their future and their rights. While we’ve had few episodes of hate, we have had many students (mostly white) tell others to get over it, shake it off and so on. It’s a difficult climate.” a high school teacher from Washington State
“In a 24-hour period, I completed two suicide assessments and two threat of violence assessments for middle school students. This was last week, one week after the election… students were threatening violence against African Americans. Students were suicidal and without hope. Fights, disrespect have increased as well.” a middle school counselor in Florida
“One Muslim girl clung to her kindergarten teacher on November 9 and asked, ‘Are they going to do anything to me Am I safe'” an early childhood teacher from Tennessee
“A kindergartener asked me ‘Why did the bully win’ 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.” an elementary school teacher in Arizona
A social worker at a school in Washington State reported that she had not witnessed any incidents of bias or hate at her school but this was not something to celebrate. “On
the contrary, since the vast majority of our students are members of targeted groups, I have seen nothing but a shared sense of fear about what will happen to them and their families,” she wrote.
The SPLC also reported specific words and phrases that numerous respondents shared:
The number of people who mentioned
|“Build the wall”||476|
|Africa (sent back to)||89|
|Slavery (return to)||20|
The specific phrases commonly heard also correlate with the number of reported anti-immigrant incidents, which was the highest compared to all other incidents. In 2015, on average, 115 racially motivated hate incidents targeting people of all races occurred every 10 days. In the 10 days following the election, anti-immigrant incidents were more than double the average for all races.
Survey respondents have distinguished between the climate in their schools before and after the election, the report emphasizes: “It is worth noting that many teachers took pains to point out that the incidents they were reporting represent a distinct uptick; these dynamics are new and can be traced directly to the results of the election.”
Notes from respondents include:
“I have seen open racism, spoken, for the first time in 23 years of teaching.” a middle school teacher in Michigan
“There have been more fights in the first 10 weeks of this year than in the first 10 years of my career (this is my 11th year teaching).” a secondary teacher in New York
“Words that I have not heard in the past racist, bigot, pussy, slut are now used by my fourth-graders.” an elementary school teacher in Minnesota
No Impact at all ‘Stop trying to find problems’
Some respondents reported no noticeable impact on their schools since the election. In fact, some questioned if spotlighting the reported tensions was only making matters worse.
“Truly, it hasn’t had a huge impact. Because I talk about these things in class, I have been able to see what little impact there is. Colleagues haven’t seen anything.” a middle school teacher in Utah
“If we stop trying to find problems and focus on the future, our country would be a better, more tolerant place to live. I explained to my students how lucky we
are to live in the greatest country in the world, a place where we can have a peaceful transition of power; and if you do not agree with the results, we get to do it again in four years.” a high school teacher in Florida
“Absolutely nothing; if anything, this survey is creating more hatred than the election results.” a high school teacher in Rhode Island
While some teachers reported no noticeable change in climate at their schools, the statistics do indicate a spike in hate incidents.
Compared to the estimated 115 racially motivated hate incidents that occurred every 10 days in 2015, there were more anti-Black incidents alone 187 in the 10 days following the election. Further, the FBI estimated that 38 anti-religious crimes targeting all faiths occurred every 10 days. During the 10-day period following the election, more than double that amount of anti-Semitic incidents took place, and 49 anti-Muslim incidents alone occurred.