Trump’s Rhetoric Is Making Children Mean

CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

Immigrant and Muslim students around the country are experiencing high levels of anxiety and more bullying from their peers as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s inflammatory campaign makes its way into classrooms. Trump’s unapologetic anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric has created a “Trump effect” leading to increased bullying, harassment, and intimidation of students whose race, religions, or nationalities have been the verbal targets, according to a Southern Poverty Law Center and Teaching Tolerance report.

In a survey that solicited 5,000 comments from K-12 educators nationwide, at least 1,000 comments mentioned Trump as a factor that riled up racial and religious tension on campus. One respondent with a self-identified classroom that’s “50 percent Hispanic” stated that just Trump’s name alone was enough to “derail a class” with many students fearing that they would be “kicked out of the country.”

“The threats and violence against Muslim students on our campus has increased,” another respondent wrote in the survey. “The female Muslim students are targets around campus for bullying, and they say it’s while [sic] males who are the perpetrators.”

“So many of my students have begun to show hatred towards refugees, low-income and poverty citizens, and there has been an increase in religious bias,” yet another respondent wrote. “Many are taking the anger and hate-filled speeches of the candidates to heart and are projecting the messages onto students they feel fit the stereotypes in the speeches.”

Among other findings, more than two-thirds of teachers reported that students — mainly immigrants, children of immigrants, and Muslims — were concerned about what might happen to them or their families after the general election, the report indicated. More than half of teachers stated that they saw a rise in “uncivil political discourse” while more than one-third have observed an increase in anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant sentiment.

The SPLC report included a caveat stating that the report was based on an unscientific survey of more than 2,000 self-selecting teachers, including teachers who may be email subscribers to SPLC releases and those most concerned about the impact of the presidential campaign in the classroom.

Still, children are often sponges of their surrounding environment, so it seems particularly distressing that Trump has established himself as the leading Republican presidential candidate by putting forth, among other things, a harsh immigration policy plan that promises to deport the country’s 11.3 million undocumented population; threats to revoke remittances by Mexican immigrants until Mexico pays for a border wall spanning the southern U.S. border; and a proposal that would Muslims to register in a national database.

Trump has long refused to condemn the violence that keeps happening at his rallies. The increase in his hateful rhetoric has also corresponded with a rise in the number of violent, often racist and xenophobic attacks on peaceful protesters, as ThinkProgress previously documented.

Even Trump’s name has been proudly invoked among some supporters who chant “Trump” as a racist taunt. In one instance, Mic News reported that a “largely white” high school chanted “Trump” against an opposing team that included Latino students. And recently on the Tulane University campus, Trump’s slogan “Make America great again” slogan was tagged on a mock “border wall” at a fraternity house, which immigrants and people of color condemned as a “symbol of racism and oppression.”

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