Thursday, December 1, 2016

Schools Post-Trump: Slurs, Trauma, and Tension

The Southern Poverty Law Center has conducted an extensive survey of school tensions and climates after the election of Trump. Find out how stress and trauma impedes learning and leaves emotional scars in Healing the Brain, our new book.

In the first days after the 2016 presidential election, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project administered an online survey to K–12 educators from across the country. Over 10,000 teachers, counselors, administrators and others who work in schools have responded. The survey data indicate that the results of the election are having a profoundly negative impact on schools and students.

Schools In The Aftermath: Targeting, Trauma, and Tension

The election of Donald Trump is having a major impact on American schools, but how students are affected — and how educators are addressing the impact — depends largely on demographics. American schools are increasingly segregated along racial, ethnic and economic lines. Although individual experiences will vary, looking at the proportion of students who are African American, Hispanic and white is a generally dependable indicator of what each school is experiencing, regardless of whether it is located in a red or a blue state. We found that how a school reacted ultimately depended on whether it is a white-majority school, a "minority-majority" school, or a diverse school with no single group in the majority. This is a generalization, of course, and there are exceptions, which we discuss later.
Overall, our public schools serve mainly low-income students of color. But students are not evenly distributed among schools. Here are a few important facts:
  • Total number of public schools: 98,454
  • Percentage of students who are from low-income families: 51
  • Percentage of students who are Hispanic: 25
  • Percentage of students who are African American: 16
  • Percentage of students who are students of color: 50
  • Percentage of schools that are 70% or more minority: 26
  • Percentage of schools that are 70% or more white: 42
  • Percentage of schools with less than 70% of one racial group: 32
The increase in targeting and harassment that began in the spring has, according to the teachers we surveyed, skyrocketed. It was most frequently reported by educators in schools with a majority of white students.
The behavior is directed against immigrants, Muslims, girls, LGBT students, kids with disabilities and anyone who was on the “wrong” side of the election. It ranges from frightening displays of white power to remarks that are passed off as “jokes.”
Here’s a small sampling of the thousands of stories teachers told us that illustrate post-election targeting.
“A group of white students held up a Confederate flag during the pledge of allegiance at a school-wide assembly.” — HIGH SCHOOL COUNSELOR, ARIZONA
“Since the election, every single secondary school in our district has had issues with racist, xenophobic or misogynistic comments cropping up. In the week since the election, I have personally had to deal with the following issues: 1) Boys inappropriately grabbing and touching girls, even after they said no (this never happened until after the election); 2) White students telling their friends who are Hispanic or of color that their parents are going to be deported and that they would be thrown out of school; 3) White students going up to students of color who are total strangers and hurling racial remarks at them, such as, ‘Trump is going [to] throw you back over the wall, you know?’ or ‘We can’t wait until you and the other brownies are gone’; 4) The use of the n-word by white students in my class and in the hallway. Never directed towards a student of color (that I’ve been told yet), but still being casually used in conversation.” — MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHER, INDIANA
“The slurs have been written on assignments. ‘Send the Muslims back because they are responsible for 9/11.’” — HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER, MINNESOTA
“’I hate Muslims.’ (Student blurted this while the class was learning about major religions.)” — MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHER, WASHINGTON


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