Trump's Election and the Student Response: School Leader Perspectives

Education leaders are responding to student walkouts, racist graffiti, bullying infused with political jabs, and fears of deportation and harassment for some students.
SNAPSHOT | 2016 Elections

Trump's Election and the Student Response: School Leader Perspectives

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Turbulence and tensions following a divisive presidential election have spilled into schools in the weeks since.

As demonstrators took to streets in some communities to express anger at the election of Donald Trump, thousands of students joined the protests by walking out of schools in cities such as Los Angeles; Omaha, Neb.; Seattle; and Washington. The largest demonstrations unfolded in communities where Hillary Clinton drew widespread support at the ballot box.

Many students—most of them not yet able to vote—said they weren't questioning the results of the election, but were seeking an outlet to express concerns over racism and fears either they, or people they know, have experienced since the GOP nominee's victory.

Inside schools, students and teachers reported racist graffiti, hurtful bullying infused with political jabs, and fears of deportation being expressed by children who are immigrants or whose parents are immigrants.

In Vice President-elect Mike Pence's hometown of Bartholomew, Ind., students taunted their Hispanic peers with chants of "build that wall!" Members of the St. Louis-area NAACP met with school officials in Missouri's Ladue school district after white students there chanted "Trump! Trump! Trump!" and told black students to move to the back of a bus.

And, after multiple days of student walkouts, the school board in the Los Angeles Unified district passed a resolution calling for "necessary outlets for expression, learning, communication, and information by the LAUSD family" including a possible "day of understanding" for students and a hotline to request support or information.

Here's a sampling of how school and district leaders around the country have responded to the events.

PHOTO AT TOP: Nurya Temam, center front, a sophomore at Northwest School in Seattle, cheers with other students who walked out of classes as they protested the election of Donald Trump as president.—Elaine Thompson/AP

'Build That Wall!'

"Our school system will not tolerate actions that demonstrate a lack of understanding and respect for our differences. Evidence of our commitment to addressing these situations is easily found as our building administrators and staff members have been diligent in their efforts to communicate expectations, provide counsel to those in need, and deliver corrective measures as warranted.

"We will continue this diligence to ensure that all students feel safe and secure within the confines of our school buildings. In order to maximize the effectiveness of our actions, we ask that students and families report any concern to the teacher or school administrator closest to the issue so that it can be immediately addressed.

"In addition, we request the contributions of all stakeholders in the community in order to most effectively assist with the raw feelings that currently exist. Regardless of our political leanings, it is imperative that we address each other in a civil manner, openly communicate, and actively demonstrate respect and appreciation."

Jim Roberts, Superintendent
Bartholomew, Ind., School District

in a statement posted in English and Spanish after students taunted their Hispanic peers with chants of "build that wall!"

Student, Teacher Walkout

"They're angry. They're crying and they feel unsafe. There's a great amount of solidarity."

Sam Pasarow, Principal
Berkeley High School, Berkeley, Calif.

in a TV interview after students and teachers walked out in protest


"Students should feel safe in school. Harassment of any kind is not to be tolerated. These reported actions go strongly against American principles. Any form of bullying is inappropriate and can be extremely detrimental to the quality education Utah espouses. Every report of this type of behavior should be taken seriously by educators and parents. In Utah, we care about each other. As a community, we need to come together in supportive and safe environments. We encourage students to reach out in friendship and support to others, including those who may look, sound, or think differently than themselves. As a nation, we need more kindness, and we believe Utah can lead the way."

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and State Superintendent Sydnee Dickson
in a joint statement after reports of election-related bullying and incidents


"I think we need to double down on our efforts about respect, knowledge of one another, and understanding where people are coming from. I think it's a really important time to be an educator."

Alison L. Serino, Principal
Westland Middle School Bethesda, Md.

in an interview with The Washington Post after swastikas were found drawn in a boys' bathroom

Student Protests

"These are important conversations that need to take place. We want our students to know they are not alone. However, it is critical that students not allow their sentiments to derail their education or for their actions to place them in danger. Students should limit their activities to noninstructional time and—for their own safety and to follow the law—they should remain on campus.

"We believe the best place to discuss concerns is in school with caring teachers and staff. Our schools are utilizing assemblies, classroom dialogues, speaking activities, and our restorative-justice programs to provide a secure forum for our students."

Michelle King, Superintendent
Los Angeles Unified School District

in a statement released after students walked out of schools to protest Trump's victory
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