It comes with the territory: The most powerful man in the country is exalted as the ultimate role model for the nation’s youth. Then came Donald Trump, and his daily cavalcade of racist remarks are serving as a kind of unfolding Fisher-Price My First Bullying Kit for kids. Teachers nationwide are dismayed, unsure of how to discipline bullies who are using the president’s own words.
There have been at least 50 incidents, across 26 states, in which elementary-school kids have used the president’s own words against classmates to harass them, BuzzFeed News reports. “This is my 21st year in education and I’ve never seen a situation like this before,” said Brent Emmons, principal of Hood River Middle School in Oregon. “It’s a delicate tightrope to walk. It’s not my role to tell people how to think about political policies, but it is my role to make sure every kid feels safe at the school.”
Some of the reported incidents:
— On a school bus in San Antonio, Texas, a white eighth-grader said to a Filipino classmate, “You are going to be deported.”
— In the hallway of a high school in San Mateo County, California, a white student told two biracial girls to “go back home to whatever country you’re from.”
— In a classroom in Brea, California, a white eighth-grader told a black classmate, “Now that Trump won, you’re going to have to go back to Africa, where you belong.”
— In Louisville, Kentucky, a third-grade boy chased a Latina girl around the classroom shouting “Build the wall!”
— In a stadium parking lot in Jacksonville, Florida, after a high school football game, white students chanted at black students from the opposing school: “Donald Trump! Donald Trump! Donald Trump!”
— In York County, Pennsylvania, a group of high school students holding Trump signs marched through the halls; one shouted “white power.”
— In Coppell, Texas, a Latino high school student found on his desk a goodbye card with a note suggesting he would be deported and ending, “Make America Great Again! Adios!”
To arrive at their report, BuzzFeed analyzed every report submitted to he Documenting Hate project, a database of hate crimes and bias incidents begun by ProPublica.
“It’s unacceptable and it reflects a wider climate of hate that we’re seeing,” Antonio Lopez, an assistant school superintendent in Portland, Oregon, told BuzzFeed. In March, he announced a plan to track racist bullying in his district.
Several principals and school superintendents have acted swiftly to condemn the bullying, holding awareness assemblies, suspending offending students and sending letters home. Students themselves have risen up to promote tolerance.
But certain supporters of Trump, for whom the president’s language can never go too far, have found those actions unacceptable.
In May, a North Carolina high school recalled yearbooks after discovering that one student’s senior quote was “Build that wall.” A statement on the school’s Facebook page called the incident “inappropriate.”
The page was soon full of pro-Trump comments:
“This is a violation of the student’s rights!!!”
“What is so ‘racist’ about the quote?”
And one got right to the heart of the conundrum facing the nation’s schools.
“Quoting the POTUS is never inappropriate!”