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    30 Nov 2016

    90% of Teachers See Negative Trump Effect in Schools

    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. Ninety percent of educators report that school climate has been negatively affected, and most of them believe it will have a long-lasting impact. A full 80 percent describe heightened anxiety and concern on the part of students worried about the impact of the election on themselves and their families.

    Also on the upswing: verbal harassment, the use of slurs and derogatory language, and disturbing incidents involving swastikas, Nazi salutes and Confederate flags.

    Teaching Tolerance conducted a previous survey in March, when we asked teachers how the primary campaign season was affecting our nation’s students. The 2,000 educators who responded reported that the primary season was producing anxiety among vulnerable students and emboldening others to new expressions of politicized bullying. Teachers overwhelming named the source of both the anxiety and the behavior as Donald Trump, then a leading contender for the Republican nomination.

    Since Trump was elected, media have been awash in reports of hate incidents around the nation, including at schools. Some detractors have characterized the reports as isolated, exaggerated or even as hoaxes. This survey, which was distributed by several organizations (see About the Survey for a complete list), via email and social media, offers the richest source of information about the immediate impact of the election on our country. The findings show that teachers, principals and district leaders will have an oversized job this year as they work to heal the rifts within school communities.

    The survey asked respondents a mix of easily quantifiable questions and also offered them a chance to describe what was happening in open-ended questions. There are over 25,000 responses, in the form of comments and stories, to the open-ended questions. It will take time to fully analyze and report on those comments. This report provides a high-level summary of the findings.

    • Here are the highlights:

    • Nine out of 10 educators who responded have seen a negative impact on students’ mood and behavior following the election; most of them worry about the continuing impact for the remainder of the school year.

    • Eight in 10 report heightened anxiety on the part of marginalized students, including immigrants, Muslims, African Americans and LGBT students.

    • Four in 10 have heard derogatory language directed at students of color, Muslims, immigrants and people based on gender or sexual orientation.

    • Half said that students were targeting each other based on which candidate they’d supported.

    • Although two-thirds report that administrators have been “responsive,” four out of 10 don’t think their schools have action plans to respond to incidents of hate and bias.

    • Over 2,500 educators described specific incidents of bigotry and harassment that can be directly traced to election rhetoric. These incidents include graffiti (including swastikas), assaults on students and teachers, property damage, fights and threats of violence.

    • Because of the heightened emotion, half are hesitant to discuss the election in class. Some principals have told teachers to refrain from discussing or addressing the election in any way.

    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.

    In addition, many teachers who said they were not hearing anti-immigrant or anti-Muslim sentiment or derogatory language pointed out that their students belong exclusively to targeted groups. The dynamics in their schools reflect fear and anxiety about the future (and of the larger community) rather than aggressions between students or groups of students.

    The dynamics and incidents these educators reported are nothing short of a crisis and should be treated as such. We end the report with a series of recommendations that school leaders and administrators should take immediately. These include making public statements that set expectations, establishing protocols to identify students who are being targeted or whose emotional needs have changed, doubling down on anti-bullying strategies and being alert to signs of a hostile environment. Most importantly, every school should have a crisis plan to respond to hate and bias incidents.

    These are only the initial steps. What new steps will be needed depends entirely on how the rapidly changing political environment (and new federal policies) affect fragile school cultures. At minimum, all schools will need to work to rebuild community; many will need to deal with even more serious threats. The kinds of disruption we describe in this report have long-lasting impacts; school leaders must be ready to respond.

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