Less than 24 hours after Donald Trump was announced the winner of the 2016 presidential election, students at a Royal Oak middle school in Michigan began chanting, “Build the wall!” A seventh grade girl captured the video on her cell phone and immediately sent it to her mother. Her mother then shared it on Facebook and the video went viral from there.
But this isn’t an isolated incident. At a school in Pennsylvania, a group of students held up a Trump sign as they walked through the hallway and shouted, “White power!”
At a high school in Minnesota, racist remarks were scribbled on the bathroom walls. One of the messages read, “Go back to Africa. Make America great again.”
Educators, school officials, and parents are horrified by the increased amount of bullying, harassment, and violence that this election has caused. But educators in particular feel like they’re at a loss. How does one condemn this kind of behavior without pushing one political agenda over another?
It’s tough, but it can be done. The best way to go about it is to talk about it from a historical standpoint. Students should learn about the slave trade, the Civil Rights Movement, the Feminist Movement, and immigration. From there, teachers can facilitate discussions about social justice.
Furthermore, educators should take the opportunity to teach students about hate crimes, which are a real, prosecutable offense. For older students, it may even be worthwhile to show video footage of hate crimes and talk about the legal repercussions that took place afterward. It’s not a fun discussion to have, but the role of the teacher is to teach, and this will help prepare students for the reality of the world we live in.
Obviously, this approach isn’t well suited for younger students. For grades K-5, it would be better to talk approach the subject from the angle of emotional well-being. Yes, consequences of bullying, harassing, or assaulting another student should be discussed, but students really need to learn how to be empathetic towards one another. That can only happen when students talk openly about how derogatory comments or actions make them feel.
Do you have any tips on how to approach this subject in the classroom? Please, share your thoughts below.