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Survey: Student Anxiety, Harassment on Rise After Election

Student anxiety and incidents of harassment have increased since the 2016 presidential election, according to a survey of school personnel. (iStockphoto)
Student anxiety and incidents of harassment have increased since the 2016 presidential election, according to a survey of school personnel. (iStockphoto)
December 8, 2016

DENVER – This year's presidential election has had a big impact on the nation's schools, grades K-through-12, according to a national survey of educators by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The study shows student anxiety and incidents of harassment are on the rise.

Report author Maureen Costello, the center’s director of teaching tolerance, says 90 percent of respondents said the election has negatively affected their schools, and many reported disturbing behavior.

"Confederate flags, lot of use of the 'n' word,” Costello relates. “We've heard of Nazi salutes, swastikas and 'Heil Trump.'

“It just seems that the kind of civil behavior that we expect of students has completely broken down."

Eight in 10 educators surveyed said immigrant, Muslim and African-American students, as well as those who identify as LGBT, experience the greatest anxiety.

Costello notes the small percentage of schools reporting little impact are predominantly white or have a history of developing welcoming, inclusive communities, and programs that encourage empathy and compassion.

Costello adds children who are anxious have a harder time learning. but parents can help address their concerns.

"Parents, I think, should, first of all, engage with their children and listen to them,” she urges. “So, it's not just, 'How was school today?' But, 'Hey I've heard about this – is this happening at your school?'"

The report's recommendations for school leaders include making public statements to affirm school values and setting expectations about inclusion and respect.

The report also urges identifying students who are being targeted or whose emotional needs seem to have changed, and doubling down on anti-bullying strategies.

"It's sometimes hard to stand up to bullying, or to stand up to nasty things being said,” Costello states. “But you don't actually have to. What you just have to do is go over to the target, engage them in conversation and show that, you know, you're their friend."

More than 10,000 teachers, counselors and other school workers responded to the post-election survey. That's up from 2,000 who took part in a similar poll in March when teachers overwhelming named now President-elect Donald Trump as the source of both student anxiety and bad behavior.


Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO