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Teachers Work to Calm WA Kids' Post-Election Jitters

Some Seattle elementary-school students have said they're afraid of deportation under a Trump presidency. (Joe Wolf/Flickr)
Some Seattle elementary-school students have said they're afraid of deportation under a Trump presidency. (Joe Wolf/Flickr)
November 21, 2016

SEATTLE – There's still a lot of uncertainty about what a Donald Trump presidency will look like, and that has some students across the state feeling anxious - and their teachers doing what they can to help.

Much of the anxiety stems from Trump's divisive rhetoric on immigrants and Muslims during his presidential campaign. Phyllis Campano, president of the Seattle Education Association and a special-ed teacher in the city, said many elementary school students began crying in class after the election, over worries they would be deported.

"We had an idea they would react somehow, but taking a little extra time and just listening to them because of the concerns of, 'I don't know if my parents are going to be home when I get home.' 'They're going to deport my uncle.' 'They're going to deport me; I don't know how long I'm going to be in school,'" Campano said.

Seattle high-school students reacted differently. Last Tuesday, more than 5,000 students from 20 high schools and middle schools walked out of class and marched to protest Trump's election.

Trump has said he will only deport undocumented immigrants with criminal records.

Campano said teachers have felt the anxiety, too. Many worry that the education policies of Trump's Administration could mean cuts to public school funding. Trump has not yet picked a Department of Education secretary, so it's hard to know what the landscape will look like. However, at a recent union meeting, Campano said teachers promised to soothe the fears in their communities as much as they could.

"So, there's about 150 people there from almost every school, and we're all saying the same thing, that we need to stand by our families, and take time and listen to their fears," she said. "Can we do anything? We don't know ourselves, right? This is just such a time of uncertainty, even for the educators."

On the campaign trail, Trump said he might eliminate the Education Department or cut it, in his words, "way, way down" - but did not offer details.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA