Report: ‘Trump Effect’ Brings ‘Fear and Anxiety’ for Students of Color

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Report: ‘Trump Effect’ Brings ‘Fear and Anxiety’ for Students of Color

Ally Boguhn

Teachers have noticed “an increase in bullying, harassment and intimidation of students whose races, religions or nationalities have been the verbal targets of candidates on the campaign trail.”

The 2016 presidential race is creating “an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color and inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom,” according to a survey conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

The organization’s new report, The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on Our Nation’s Schoolscollected comments from about 2,000 K-12 educators between March 23 and April 2, using an online survey through their Teaching Tolerance project. The results show many children fear “being deported” after the 2016 election and teachers have noticed “an increase in bullying, harassment and intimidation of students whose races, religions or nationalities have been the verbal targets of candidates on the campaign trail.”

Though the survey didn’t mention Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump by name, more than 1,000 comments brought up the GOP frontrunner, compared to less than 200 comments mentioning other presidential candidates.

Though the SPLC cautions that their survey was “not scientific,” the results show trends that may be taking place in classrooms across the country. Sixty-seven percent of teachers say their students are afraid of what will happen to their families after the election and educators in every state said they had seen an increase in hostility towards immigrants, according to the report.

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“My students are terrified of Donald Trump,” a middle school teacher told the SPLC. “They think that if he’s elected, all black people will get sent back to Africa.”

A high school teacher in California similarly reported that they’ve seen “Latino students who carry their birth certificates and Social Security cards to school because they are afraid they will be deported.” Another teacher said a #whitelivesmatter sign was placed on a table where Black students sat. 

More than one-third of teachers said they had seen a rise in anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant sentiment. “Students are hearing more hate language than I have ever heard at our school before,” said a high school teacher in Montana.

“A lot of students think we should kill any and all people we do not agree with,” said another teacher in New Hampshire. “They also think that all Muslims are the same and are a threat to our country and way of life. They believe all Muslims want to kill us.”

Many educators said that Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim declarations had had a noticeable impact on dialogue among teachers and students. One teacher included in the SPLC survey said “the overall attitude at our school is that all of the candidates’ anti-immigration rhetoric is self-serving, and that Trump and Cruz in particular are dangerously insane. These are from conversations with both students and other teachers.”

SPLC President Richard Cohen in a statement said teacher feedback showed students of color felt threatened by the rhetoric coming from the campaign trail in recent months.

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

Donald Trump has come under fire for making increasingly inflammatory statements about immigrants, Muslims, and people of color. Other Republican presidential candidates such as Cruz have stepped up their rhetoric on these issues in what is being deemed the “Trump effect.”

Trump on the campaign trail has called immigrants from Mexico “rapists,” and falsely claimed they were responsible for bringing disease into the United States. In December, Trump proposed a ban on all Muslims entering the United States after terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.