What's the 'Trump Effect' in schools? Here's how 2,000 teachers explain it.

Jan 12, 2017

A kindergarten teacher in Tennessee says that a Latino child asks every day, “Is the wall here yet?” He was told by classmates that he will be deported and blocked from returning home by the wall proposed by presidential candidate Donald Trump.

That's one of 4,796 comments made in response to a Southern Poverty Law Center survey of teachers across the country. The center, an advocacy group that works on civil rights issues, says the 2,000 K-12 teachers who responded to the survey show that hate has spread into schools, and has inflamed racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom.

The online survey, conducted from March 23 to April 2, asked questions about the impact of the presidential campaign on schoolchildren. According to the report, "The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on Our Nation’s Schools," the teachers' answers show “an 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,” says Southern Poverty 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 tension and fear certainly compound the burden of immigrant students who are already struggling with language barrier, after-school job and family caregiving work. In recent weeks, fans have taunted players — especially Latino players — with "Trump! Trump!" and "Build a wall!" at high school sporting events in Iowa and Indiana.

The survey is not meant to represent the nation because respondents were not randomly picked. They are the center's email subscribers and visitors to its website, where the survey was published, thus they are likely to be teachers who are concerned about the issue or face these problems in their schools.

Nevertheless the 4,796 comments are illuminating. A significant number of minority students especially Muslim, Latino, undocumented students or students with undocumented family members are facing increased harassment and are worried about their future in the country, according to the teachers who answered the survey. They responded to five questions:

  1. How have you seen the rhetoric of this year’s presidential campaign affect your students? Your school?
  2. If you have witnessed bullying or biased language at your school — from adults or students — that mimics the rhetoric of the campaign, please tell us about it.
  3. Have you changed the way you approach teaching about the election this year? If so, how?
  4. Do you have additional comments?
  5. What resources do you need to help you teach safely and effectively about the 2016 election?

The center provided us with the survey data and we've made a tool for you to search and browse the comments with keywords and by typing search terms of your own. Tell us about the interesting responses you find in the discussion section below.


From PRI's The World ©2016 PRI