Student Well-Being

Troubled by Post-Election School Climate, K-12 Groups to Issue ‘Call to Action’

By Evie Blad — November 21, 2016 3 min read
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A group of education-related organizations are calling on school leaders and educators to respond to numerous reports of violence, harassment, and intimidation that have occurred since the presidential election by publicly “reaffirm[ing] the inclusive values that are the foundation of healthy learning cultures.”

In the almost two weeks since Republican Donald Trump won a narrow electoral victory in the divisive race, schools around the country have reported hate speech, racist graffiti, and fear among immigrant and religious minority students who are troubled by Trump’s tough talk on immigration.

The organizations issuing the call to action are: the AASA, the School Superintendents Association; the American School Counselor Association; GLSEN, an LBGT student group; the National Association of Elementary School Principals; the National Association of Secondary School Principals; National PTA; the National School Boards Association; the National Association of School Psychologists; and the National Association of Independent Schools.

“We come together as national education organizations in the wake of the troubling rash of reports of bias incidents and violence occurring in schools across the nation in recent days,” the groups said in a statement. “As learning communities, schools and school systems are responsible for providing all students with a physically and emotionally safe learning environment. This principle is the foundation of academic achievement, healthy individual development, and civic engagement. Violence, intimidation, and purposefully harmful expressions of bias undercut the core mission of schools and have no place in our school communities.”

The statement applauded the schools and districts “that have already taken meaningful steps to develop and support positive school climate in their communities.” It did not list any examples. In recent weeks, districts like Los Angeles Unified have approved resolutions following repeated school walkouts by thousands of students. Those resolutions call for safe and supportive learning environments, and some have made special mention of a refusal to cooperate with possible future federal immigration enforcement.

Many teachers have also made extra efforts to discuss students’ fears in the classroom and to use the election as an opportunity to talk about civics issues, such as the separation of powers and civil rights.

The groups’ statement asks their constituents and “all education leaders” to take the following steps:

  • “Publicly reaffirm the inclusive values that are the foundation of healthy learning cultures,”
  • “Lead a conversation with their school community on the core values of respect and inclusion at the heart of all learning; and”
  • “Consider posting a statement regarding these core values throughout their schools and/or all the schools within their district.”

“These actions should specifically affirm the right of all students, regardless of race, color, national origin, immigration status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or religion to be educated in an environment free from fear, violence, and intimidation,” the statement said.

Before the election, national teachers unions, which endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton, flagged Trump’s coarse campaign rhetoric as a driver of bullying in classrooms around the country. The Southern Poverty Law Center called the trend “The Trump Effect.”

In the time since the polls closed, hurtful and racist acts have also spread beyond schools and into other areas of the public through vandalism and sometimes violent confrontations.

In a 60 Minutes interview shortly after his win, Trump told supporters committing racist and discriminatory acts to “stop it.” He has said little about the issue since.

East Los Angeles high school students protest against the election of President-elect Donald Trump in downtown Los Angeles on Nov. 14. Some carried signs that read “Deport Trump,” while others waved the U.S., Mexican and gay pride flags. (Nick Ut/AP)

Related reading on Donald Trump, the presidential election, and schools:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.