Educators shine light on the effect of Donald Trump’s bullying on students


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.

Trump’s proclivity for personal attacks was on full display at last week’s presidential debate and late last week with an early morning Twitter rant against former Miss Universe Alicia Machado. He doubled down on his past criticism of Machado’s weight, calling her “disgusting.”
Image courtesy of the Wisconsin Education Association Council

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.

Reader Comments

  1. Why is building a wall to protect the sovereignty of our nation wrong? We need more people supporting the notion that illegal aliens are not welcome here. Why is it bad that anyone sees that as a responsible, patriotic action?

    1. I totally disagree with you, Bob. I have always told my students to leave their prejudices out of my classroom. Are you able to say the same while questioning the rejection of the notion of a wall? The sovereignty of a free and democratic nation has nothing to do with physical walls and everything to do with the level of quality education for all of its citizens. Immigrants came to this land uninvited by its original inhabitants and instead of making any sincere attempt to coexist in harmony with the indigenous human beings, every effort was made to foist a foreign worldview down their throats while discriminating against them. When will we stop looking at those who wish to seek a better life as the “other”? When will we truly show that we understand the difference between “justice” and “just us”? Individuals who are afforded a genuinely complete education learn to also accept the very fact that we must also be “Citizens of the World.” Until that happens, we will have endless conflict; conflict that has its roots in fear, prejudice and bigotry.

      1. Perhaps you would like to be a citizen of China, or maybe Russia? How does North Korea sound. We are Americans, not citizens of the world

        A wall to keep out illegal people is not a demonstration of prejudice, but rather a recognition that American does not tolerate illegal actions by anyone.

        1. I guess your comments indicate we ought to be roaming the plains of this land, living in tee pees and eating buffalo meat?

          1. We would be (roaming the plains) had the Native Americans, to whom we were illegal immigrants, adopted your philosophy—if they let us in at all. Really, your belief that we are not citizens of the world underscores the differences in our viewpoints. I understand your point of view: I just don’t agree with it.

      2. Conflict will always exist, to think otherwise is living in fantasy. The first ‘immigrants’ left their native lands in a much different time in history. The places they left have not really changed much but American is a child in the sense of maturity of nations and can not change to what was left behind. We are not citizens of the world, we should not try to be like other people, we need to act like Americans: proud, independent, leaders. We are far better off than other nations, so what logic says we are or should be the same as other nations? And why do droves of immigrants want to come here? Make this land like where they are leaving? Let them fight for their own liberty in their own lands.

        1. Different and better, Bob? Have you done much international traveling? Lots of people and places around the world are AMAZING.

    2. Although I don’t happen to agree that building a wall is the best solution for stopping people from crossing th U.S. border illegally, the policy is not at issue here. It’s the rhetoric.

    3. I would think that the “history” of walls throughout time would show their lack of insight. The Great Wall of China and the Berlin Wall…… what did they show humanity? The need for “walls” comes from a point of fear. America has always risen above this fear to embrace diversity in the past. We need to continue to show our children we are GLOBAL in our thinking and our actions!

    4. Study the berlin wall, trust the facts and historical precedent. To think that physical obstacles are the way to stop the issues its supposed to address is ludicrous. Im a 14 year old nerd and wven i know..duh

  2. My students have always been mean and rude. I see no difference in their behavior, it’s just like when Bill Clinton was in the White House and Hillary stole the furniture from there. Did that teach our students to steal?

    1. I wonder what Hickabilly Bill’s action with Monica taught students? Maybe how to have your wife cover things up and deny everything?

  3. Let’s all get together and go against this one person. Oh wait, that’s basically the definition of bullying! What a conundrum. How else are we going to force our opinion into the minds of of our political opponents?

    1. Listening to the genuine fears of these children, reporting on increases in bullying, that constitutes all getting together to go against one person, i.e. “bullying Trump. I read NOTHING about FORCING the teachers’ opinions on anyone. What a strange interpretation of this article. Hmmmm. They reported observations. You sniffed out a plot.

      1. Of course there is a plot. It there is not a give away of hardworking tax payers’ money, the party involved is prejudiced, bias and against children and equality.

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