After an article appeared in the Cape Cod Times about a recent incident in the Cyrus Peirce Middle school--just down the hall--our staff deemed it appropriate to consider the effects of the election on Nantucket’s adolescents as well other students across the country.
Following Trump’s election to the presidency, a group of students chanting Trump’s name in the middle school cafeteria grew reckless when a few boys repeated obscene language used by the president-elect during the general election campaign. The adult supervisors of the cafeteria put a stop to the chanting and other inappropriate comments and those students were later spoken to.
During a discussion on WCAI's Morning Edition with co-host Brian Morris, CPS principal Peter Cohen added that “the other more significant incident took place where a couple kids said to another student the next day, that she was going to be deported. That really upset her and her friends and so they talked to the kids about that, and really were just trying to emphasize respect.”
Although this particular incident has not occurred since, it is important to recognize how the particular rhetoric used by our president-elect has impacted students here and across America, and how comfortable they feel using crude language and phrases.
Cohen sent out an email to the parents of CPS students following the incidents to inform them and remind them of the school’s policies.
He reported to Brian Morris, “Students don’t just make this stuff up, they hear it on tv, they hear it around the dinner table, and so if we can all just agree to move forward; emphasizing respect as we always do, we’ll be in much better shape.”
The incident itself--who the students were, the exact words they said--are not of the utmost importance. The majority of schools in America have been affected to various degrees, including our own.
Many teachers made a point in a survey conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center or SPLC, stating that what is happening now--in their own school systems--is something new. They explained, that it is not a different response to an election result, “but an unleashing of a spirit of hatred they had not seen before.”
Nine out of ten educators who responded to this survey 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.
Half of the teachers also added that students were targeting each other based on which candidate they’d supported. There is open racism.
One high school teacher from Oregon described, “The white students wear red ball caps and say terrible things about immigrants, while sitting next to their immigrant friends. The white students are loud about their views. The others are quiet and afraid.”
An elementary school teacher from Minnesota explained, “Words that I have not heard in the past--racist, bigot, pussy, slut--are now used by my fourth-graders.”
Teaching Tolerance conducted a previous survey in March, where they 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.
There are also many reports of fear. The fear comes in many forms: worries about deportation, family separation, general anxiety and hopelessness about the future. Teachers observed that children who are fearful and anxious are unable to concentrate and have a harder time keeping up at school.
Cohen made an important statement about how the middle school has handled the election thus far.
“It’s also just an opportunity for us to teach kids how to navigate how current events impact their world.”
Realistically, bullying in any form is against the law and should be taken seriously. Encourage everyone in the school community to be aware of bullying, harassment, and bias in all their forms. Remind them of the school’s written policies, and set the expectation that your staff be ready to act. Not everyone has to be a hero, but everyone can be an upstander and take a stance against any injustice.
For more repots of incidents across America visit; https://www.splcenter.org/20161128/trump-effect-impact-2016-presidential-election-our-nations-schools