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How schools are dealing with post-election fallout

November 11, 2016 at 6:40 PM EST
In the wake of the election, schools across the country are reporting heightened anxiety and disappointment, incidents of bullying, vandalism and harassment and even walkouts protesting the president-elect. Our student reporting labs have gathered a variety of reactions, and Hari Sreenivasan speaks with Education Week’s Kavitha Cardoza and Mariama Richards of Friends’ Central School for more.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And next: schoolchildren and how the combative political season has affected them.

And to Hari Sreenivasan in New York.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Teachers and parents across the country report heightened anxiety and disappointment among some students, even a number of school walkouts in recent days.

In other cases, incidents of intimidation and bullying have been reported, including graffiti with swastikas, calls for white power in a Pennsylvania high school, and Michigan middle school students chanting “Build that wall” during lunch period.

The “NewsHour”‘s Student Reporting Labs gathered these reactions from across the country.

ALLICIA DEAN, Etiwanda High School, California: When I found out that Donald Trump had won the presidential election, I was scared. I was just staring at my phone in shock, and I had no idea what was going to happen next.

JULIAN MASTERS, Fort Mill High School, South Carolina: I’m not devastated that Trump is president. I think it sends a pretty strong message to the American people that something needs to change. A vote for Trump doesn’t mean you are a bigot, a racist or anti-woman. Maybe the country does need to be run more like a business, so we can actually get things done.

JESSICA BRUNT, Brighton High School, Utah: I just didn’t understand how such a hateful man could rise to power so quickly. And I have been really angry, but now I’m just tired. I’m tired that he is now state-sponsored.

SKY ISLAND THOMAS, West Ranch, California: I feel like a lot of students, people in general, educated themselves through social media and what was on television, rather than informing themselves.

MARTA KIROS, Etiwanda High School, California: I feel like, as minorities, as people of color, at LGBT community, as Muslims, as everyone who has ever been prejudiced again and anyone who’s ever expressed inequality, we all need to make sure that we stay in school, we handle our business, we are good in everything that we do, so that we can one day — in the next election, we can make sure that we make our voices heard, that we are the ones running for Senate, we are the ones running for president, we are the ones representing us in the communities.

TIMMY JOSTEN, West Ranch, California: My concerns are that Donald is kind of going to lose his temper a little bit sometimes and say some not-so-smart things and get some people angry. But I don’t think he’s going to make too many bad decisions. I think he knows where he’s going. I think he knows what he’s doing.

MARY OLIVER, Judge Memorial Catholic High School, Utah: The fact that someone like Trump is able to be elected, the things that he says for women, about people in different races, the fact that it’s OK for him to say those things now makes it seem more OK for other people to say those things. So, I think that’s my biggest fear.

ZACK BRADLEY, Smoky Mountain Youth Media, Tennessee: My concern is war. But that’s a concern with any candidate. With Hillary, it was going to be war with Russia. With Trump, it’s going to be a civil war. And the question is, who is going to win either of those?

KATIE ONTIVEROS, Brighton High School, Utah: Seeing that my generation doesn’t want to take action or take responsibility for their future and my future, our future, I just don’t want to stay in a country like this, if that’s what it’s going to be like.

KEALA NAIPO, Etiwanda High School, California: There is no doubt that the president election was a huge shock to me. But I call our citizens to have some respect and faith in our country.

We have made it through a civil war, two world wars, the Great Depression, and terrorist attacks. But this is no fight. We elected someone new as president. That shouldn’t be tearing us apart. It should be bringing us together.

HARI SREENIVASAN: For a closer look now, we turn to Kavitha Cardoza of Education Week, who has been talking to teachers across the country, and Mariama Richards, an administrator at Friends Central School just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Kavitha, let me start with you. What have you found in your reporting in the past couple days?

KAVITHA CARDOZA, Education Week: Well, this is something that teachers are used to.

They have been dealing with these emotions through the campaign season. The election results just made it more concrete. Children in schools are just a microcosm of society. And so they’re not surprised at all that some of these emotions are spilling into the classroom.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, are these the students’ own opinions, or are they parroting what their parents say at home?

KAVITHA CARDOZA: I think a bit of both.

With the teenagers we just saw, some of it is their own, because they are reading newspapers and watching the television themselves. But I spoke to a teacher in California, and she teaches pre-K, and she says children just absorb the stress of their parents.

And so she teaches in a very diverse community, a lot of Muslims, a lot of immigrants. And she said she has noticed that the children are more aggressive, they’re more prone to crying, very emotional. So she and other teachers have actually put the learning, the academic goals on hold with these children and they have said, you know what? Let’s create our own curriculum, how to be a good friend, how to listen, how to be calm when you feel upset.

She said a lot of the parents are stressed about maybe their families being split up, maybe losing health care if Obamacare goes away.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Mariama Richards, what kind of things are you grappling with at your school or the teachers have been coming to you with?

MARIAMA RICHARDS, Friends’ Central School: One of the biggest issues that is in front of us right now is a community that wants to see change happen, that felt really connected to the election season, regardless of which side that particular student or family was on.

And now they’re grappling with kind of how do they push through some of the values that they really do love and appreciate about the community that they’re building and finding that there’s a split in perspective on how to move forward.

For example, there are students who feel so angry and upset now, that it’s hard for them to think about engaging those who may have voted for our current president-elect, because they see that engagement as people who think less of them, who don’t think that they’re full human beings, while there are other students who may not necessarily be on the side of the president-elect as well, but they’re in a position where they feel like this is an opportunity for us to learn what the other side of the world is thinking.

And so even in places where you have commonalities in terms of goals, we’re still seeing students really struggle with kind of, what’s our best case forward moving forward?

With the little ones, they are struggling with very similar things that we just heard, fear. They are hearing lots of information and not understanding the context for it. And we see it play out definitely in the classroom setting in how they’re connecting with others, whether or not they feel reserved, whether or not they feel fear.

And we are, as teachers, trying to support them in the process of getting through that.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Kavitha Cardoza, are the teachers saying, in essence, what the children are feeling? I mean, is there a collective sense of anxiety or tension, whether — regardless- of which side of the election they came down on?

KAVITHA CARDOZA: I think the teachers are really, really making a concerted effort to, no matter what their personal beliefs, to be that oasis of calm for the children and to kind of bring everyone together.

There are students who, for example, supported climate change, and they are devastated, we have heard reports. There are students — I spoke to a teacher in Ohio, and she said her students came with Trump T-shirts and the “Make America Great Again” caps, and they were thrilled.

And so within these schools and within all the children, they teach how do you make it safe and calm and respectful, really?

HARI SREENIVASAN: Mariama Richards, you took steps to prepare parents before the election. What are you hearing from them now?

MARIAMA RICHARDS: After the election, we have been in constant communication, which I think is really key to that partnership with families.

And the letters we have sent home have included additional links for support. And in some cases, we have parents who really want us to move away and say, OK, it’s over. Let’s now move on with the practice of going to school and doing the work.

And there are other families that are so ultimately grateful that we’re taking that time to be able to help their children through this process. And I think what we have learned, as a Quaker school that’s embedded in the value-centered curriculum, is that we know, if students do not feel affirmed, they actually won’t learn.

We won’t be able to teach math if they feel scared and if they feel like they are at risk. And so we have to be able to find a wonderful balance of incorporating both of those in the classroom setting.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Kavitha Cardoza, we have been seeing such an increase on every educational level, from middle schools to high school to colleges, of acts of intimidation, bullying, swastikas spray-painted here and there.

What are you seeing in your reporting?

KAVITHA CARDOZA: A lot more, Hari.

One is that these kids share, tape everything and share everything on social media, so it’s much more accessible. I think just today on my Twitter feed, I saw someone say: My daughter came home from school and said she heard that she no longer has to be politically correct.

And so you’re seeing a lot of things which kids, some of them don’t even know what the implications are and what it means. But because it’s being shared so widely, kids, you know, just copy sometimes.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Yes.

Kavitha Cardoza, Mariama Richards, thank you both.

KAVITHA CARDOZA: Thank you, Hari.

MARIAMA RICHARDS: Thank you.

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