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Nine Out Of 10 Teachers Surveyed Say Election Has Had A Negative Impact On Students

Marina Kuperman Villatoro
A new survey of 10,000 teachers nationwide finds that the recent presidential election has had a negative impact on students.

In the 10 days after the election of Donald Trump, nearly 900 incidents of harassment and intimidation were reported around the country. And in a new nationwide survey, educators report the election results have had a negative impact on students.

Ninety percent of teachers who responded to the online survey from the Southern Poverty Law Center say the election outcome is having a negative impact on students. The K-12 teachers say students have been harassed or attacked and some kids have been caught using derogatory language or writing hateful graffiti.

“It’s depressing,” said Maureen Costello, director of the Teaching Tolerance project at the Center. “It’s incredibly depressing reading.”

More than 10,000 teachers responded to this latest survey – thousands more than in the spring when a similar survey was conducted during the primaries.

“And that tells me that it’s much worse than it was in the spring,” Costello said. “That what we began to see then has become amplified. Many teachers told us that they’ve never seen anything like this in their entire careers. I’ve been in education for almost 40 years, I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Costello said incidents of hate have taken place in a variety of schools around the country. In Dallas, where the majority of students are Latino, Costello said fewer hate incidents have been reported, but kids are coming to school with fear.

“They are bursting into tears in school. They’re worried about parents. They’re worried about family separation,” she said. “They’re disheartened. And some teachers have reported that they really just have become disillusioned about the promise of this country.”

In schools where the majority of students are white, Costello said there are more reported hate incidents, such as harassment. And in more diverse schools, teachers in the survey said they were seeing fights break out and more tension among different racial groups. Half of the teachers surveyed said "students were targeting each other based on which candidate they'd supported."

Here are a few of the comments from teachers who took the survey:

"We have a mixture of high-income white families and low-income Latino students. The divide has always existed, but with the election over the last year, it's been WAY worse." -- Elementary Teacher, Illinois
" 'You voted for Trump. I hate you,' said one third-grader to another." -- Elementary Teacher, Washington
"We have had many students fighting, especially between the Latino and African-American population, as well as many more boys feeling superior to girls. I have had one male student grab a female student's crotch and tell her that it's legal for him to do that to her now ... One of my students from last year who is Muslim has not worn her hijab since the election. -- Elementary School Teacher, Minnesota

Costello said educators shouldn’t ignore what’s happening around them.

“Don’t be complacent,” she said. “Don’t think that just because you’re not seeing something or hearing something that it’s not happening.”

Educators can use these incidents as a teaching moment, she added, to get students to talk about what’s happening and explain why this behavior shouldn’t be tolerated.

More recommendations for teachers can be found in the report. Also, KERA has been tracking incidents of hate at schools across Texas. You can find a listing here.