Survey Suggests ‘Trump Effect’ Driving Student Worries

(Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons)

A new report conducted by Teaching Tolerance found that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is instilling a high level of fear and anxiety among children of color while increasing racial and ethnic tensions in public schools across the country, with many students sharing fears of being deported.

The online survey, “The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on Our Nation’s Schools,” found that the current presidential campaign is having negative effects on children and classrooms nationwide.  Teachers have noted an increase in bullying, harassment and intimidation of students whose races, religions, or nationalities have come under verbal attack by the candidates.

According to the report, educators are unsure of how to handle the situation.  They shared feelings of confusion in terms of how to remain bipartisan while also handling the elevated levels of anxiety in the classroom and the negative lessons their students could be taking away from the campaign.

A teacher in Arlington, Virginia, says, “I try to not bring it up since it is so stressful for my students.” Another, in Indianapolis, Indiana, says, “I am at a point where I’m going to take a stand even if it costs me my position.”

Conducted between March 23 and April 2, 2016, the informal survey looked at the views of 2,000 K-12 teachers across the country.  However, the authors do say that those who chose to participate are email subscribers and not a random sampling of teachers.  They also said that respondents were likely to be those who are most concerned over the impact of the election on their students.

Report findings state that over two-thirds of teachers said their students, some of whom are immigrants, children of immigrants, or Muslims, have expressed their fears over what might happen to themselves or their families after the election is over.  Over half of respondents said they have seen an increase in uncivil political discourse, while one-third said they saw an increase in anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant sentiment.

As a result, 40% said they hold reservations when it comes to teaching about the election.

While the survey did not identify candidates, over 1,000 of the 5,000 comments mentioned Donald Trump.  Meanwhile, fewer than 200 mentioned Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton.

Trump has spoken openly about deporting Latino immigrants, building a wall between the United States and Mexico, banning Muslim immigrants, and has even suggested killing the families of Islamist terrorists.  He has also referred to some Mexican immigrants as being “rapists” and drug dealers.

“My students are terrified of Donald Trump,” says one teacher from a middle school with a large population of African-American Muslims. “They think that if he’s elected, all black people will get sent back to Africa.”

Researchers pushed for educators to continue teaching about the election, to make use of the instances of incivility as teachable moments, and to offer support to those students who are hurt, confused, or afraid.