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'Nothing short of a crisis' — hate crimes explode in our schools

I'm Parenting Editor at SheKnows. I'm the co-author of Let's Panic About Babies(Macmillan, 2011). I've also written for numerous publications including Salon, Redbook, Nerve, and The Onion. I live in Brooklyn with my husband, son, tiny d...

In wake of Trump's victory, racist attacks are on the upswing in schools — and children are afraid

Since Trump’s victory just a few weeks ago, incidences of hate crimes and vandalism throughout the country have exploded. This is terrifying, and because we’re flawed humans who don’t want to see the worst in humanity, it’s tempting to minimize these reports or chalk them up to increased reporting. (Unfortunately, the so-called “alt-right” is capitalizing on this human tendency to minimize by declaring multiple reports to be hoaxes.)  It’s painful to think that all it took was “permission” from a Trump election to embolden hate groups and racists alike to come out into the open.

These reports are especially upsetting when they come from schools. The idea that children of all ages are intimidating, harassing and even attacking other children is almost too awful to consider. But consider it we must, because it’s happening.

In the days after the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project administered an online survey to over 10,000 educators across the country. The responses were staggering: 90 percent of educators reported that their schools have been negatively affected. Eighty percent say their students are experiencing increased anxiety over the impact this election will have on them and their families. Swastikas, Nazi salutes and Confederate flags have appeared in schools, often for the first time in the educators’ career histories. The use of verbal harassment and slurs has increased dramatically.

More: Kids talk honestly about race — and it's eye-opening

According to the responses, the negative effects have been seen most dramatically in schools with a white majority, where immigrants, Muslim students, girls, LGBT students and anyone seen as “against Trump” are being targeted. (Schools that are primarily populated by minorities are seeing more problems with anxiety and fear; schools that are homogeneously white and conservative remain relatively unaffected.)

Here is a small sample of some of the educators’ responses:

“‘You voted for Trump. I hate you,’ said one third-grader to another.” 

“I have had one male student grab a female student’s crotch and tell her that it’s legal for him to do that to her now.” 

“The day after the election a line of students (mainly Hispanic) was formed at lunch. A student (African American) told one of them to ‘Go back to Mexico.’” 

“Immigrant students reported that the bus on November 9th was full of ‘Terrorist’ or ‘Pack your bags!’ or ‘Go back to where you came from.’ Another student who is Jewish reported, ‘We’ll burn you.’” 

More: Why safety pins are not enough to stand up to discrimination

Many of the responses underscored the newness of this level of vitriol: It is, as Southern Law Poverty Center reports, “a spirit of hatred they have not seen before.” 

The report includes suggestions for schools and educators and is worth reading in its entirety. Share with your school administrators, and ask your kids what's happening at their schools. This is a national crisis that needs to be addressed at every level, now, before something truly tragic occurs.

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