More Than 40 Percent of Teachers Are Hesitant to Teach About the Election, Cite Trump

By Denisse Moreno, Epoch Times
April 14, 2016 Updated: April 14, 2016

A report released by the Southern Poverty Law Center on April 13 shows teachers and students across the country are negatively impacted by the presidential campaign—especially Donald Trump.

The report, The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on Our Nation’s Schools, surveyed about 2,000 teachers. The survey said that the race to the White House is “producing an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color and inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom.”

We’ve seen Donald Trump behave like a 12-year-old, and now we’re seeing 12-year-olds behave like Donald Trump.
— Richard Cohen, President, Southern Poverty Law Center

The survey, which was conducted between March 23 to April 2, said many students are worried about getting deported, even those who were born in the United States. School teachers also reported a spike in bullying, harassment and intimidation of students whose races, religions or nationalities have been targeted by presidential candidates.

“We’re deeply concerned about the level of fear among minority children who feel threatened by both the incendiary campaign rhetoric and the bullying they’re encountering in school,” said SPLC President Richard Cohen.

“We’ve seen Donald Trump behave like a 12-year-old, and now we’re seeing 12-year-olds behave like Donald Trump,” he added.

The report said more than two-thirds of teachers reported that students—most of them immigrants, children of immigrants, and muslims—are concerned and are in fear about what might happen to their family after the election.

“My students are terrified of Donald Trump,” said a 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.”

The survey revealed that more than 40 percent of teachers are hesitant to teach about the election. It also showed students bullying others by using the word “Trump” as a taunt or chant, while Muslim children are being called “terrorist,” “ISIS,” or “bomber.”

Many teachers expressed that they are conflicted in the classroom when teaching about politics.

“Schools are finding that their anti-bullying work is being tested and, in many places, falling apart,” said Teaching Tolerance Director Maureen Costello, author of the report.

“Most teachers seem to feel they need to make a choice between teaching about the election or protecting their kids. In elementary school, half have decided to avoid it. In middle and high schools, we’re seeing more who have decided, for the first time, not to be neutral,” she added.

Many teachers expressed that they are conflicted in the classroom when teaching about politics.

“I am avoiding it so far,” said one teacher.

When asked if teachers have changed the way they approach teaching about the election this year these were some of the responses:

“Absolutely. I am operating on fear at this point: fear of offending, fear of becoming defensive, and fear of saying the wrong thing because of my emotions.”

“I haven’t taught about elections in the past but I feel very conflicted approaching the subject with students, more so than I would have in 2012 or 2008 etc.”

“I have decided to not show Presidential debates and to downplay the platforms in this Presidential election, but instead to focus on the election process itself.”

“I’ve avoided discussing election issues because it is impossible to present anything Trump says in a positive way. There’s no way to appear unbiased.”

“Yes. I have chosen not to discuss much. Instead, I am trying to focus on teaching my students positive social skills.”

“I’m supposed to stop racism or sexism in my classroom but I’m supposed to stay quiet on what Trump is saying? Not possible. It has been a delicate balancing act but to ignore the words of a major party candidate for the presidency would be negligent and harmful to their well being.”

Meanwhile, the SPLC urged teachers to not stop teaching about the election, and to support students who are hurt, confused or  scared of what they’re hearing from the candidates.