Society

90% Of Teachers See Negative Election Effect In Class

| by Robert Fowler

A new study conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has found that 90 percent of respondents, the vast majority of them teachers, have witnessed a negative and increasingly hostile environment grow in their classrooms following the presidential election.

On Nov. 28, the SPLC released the results of a new study sponsored by their Teaching Tolerance project, which surveyed 10,000 educators. Of those polled, 90 percent testified to seeing a wave of negativity pervade their classrooms following the election of President-elect Donald Trump, with 40 percent attesting to minority students being singled out for harassment.

The report found that roughly 2,500 educators had witnessed racially-charged incidents against their minority students that they believe were incited by Trump's campaign rhetoric, according to New York magazine.

One middle-school teacher in Indiana wrote that their district had experienced incidents such as: "Boys inappropriately grabbing and touching girls, even after they said no … White students going up to students of color who are total strangers and hurling racial remarks at them … The use of the n-word by white students in my class and in the hallway."

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"There have been more fights between students as well as students toward teachers, a direct result of the anxiety our students are constantly feeling," said Lindsy Polki, an elementary school teacher in Minneapolis.

Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance, stressed that the report was not scientific, with respondents seeking out the survey instead of being approached. There is a possibility that the alarmingly high percentage of respondents reporting a negative impact is skewed because the survey respondents sought out the study, according to CNN.

"If I had to say, looking at the results, does it skew in some way, I would say that it skews toward people who teach some of the large numbers of immigrants, vulnerable students," Costello said. "Those are the people we really heard from because I think those are the schools that most affected and clearly people who didn't think there was any problem going on probably didn't feel as compelled to answer the survey."

One of the survey respondents, a high school teacher from Kansas, said that the rise in incidents had surprised her and her peers.

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"I don't think that they anticipated in any way what kids were going to say because for the most part, our schools are very diverse," the Kansas teacher said. "It's not something we deal with anymore. … I think a lot of people thought we were in the post-racial era and they didn't expect this going backwards kind of behavior. This kind of hostility just really caught a lot of people unaware."

Roughly 60 percent of respondents said that their school administrators had been responsive in curbing the incidents while 40 percent expressed concern that their schools were unprepared to deal with the growingly negative classroom environment.

On Nov. 29, several human rights groups convened in at the National Press Club to urge action from Trump. The groups include the SPLC, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the American Federation of Teachers, according to Mother Jones.

SPLC president Richard Cohen issued a statement calling on Trump to address the anxiety of the country, asserting that his controversial campaign rhetoric had created an environment of hostility nationwide.

"Instead of pretending to be surprised by the pervasive hate that has infected our country, Mr. Trump needs to take responsibility for it and repair the damage that he has caused," Cohen said. "He needs to speak out forcefully and repeatedly against bigotry. He needs to apologize to the communities he has injured and demonstrate that they will be protected and valued in his administration."

Sources: CNN, Mother JonesNew York / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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