Posted by Rawan Elbaba on December 19, 2016 in Blog

Story_Time.jpg“One Muslim girl clung to her kindergarten teacher on November 9 and asked, ‘Are they going to do anything to me? Am I safe?’”  

“The day after the election, white students in my school walked down the halls harassing their students of color. One student went around asking, ‘Are you legal?’ to each student he passed. Another student told his black classmate to ‘Go back to Haiti because this is our country now.’” 

“I have had one male student grab a female student’s crotch and tell her that it’s legal for him to do that to her now.”

These painful examples were all documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center as having occurred after Election Day.

In fact, since the 2016 election, hate crimes against minorities have soared. Incidents of bias, harassment, intimidation, or violence against American Muslims, Arab Americans, Sikhs, women, African Americans, the disabled, LGBTQ community, etc. have increased tenfold overall this year. 

Another example among many, reported by the Southern Poverty Law Center, recounted an incident in California where a 13-year-old student from Mozambique was told by another classmate, “Now that Trump won, you’re going to have to go back to Africa – where you belong.” Incidents like these and others reported by the SPLC show that the most common settings for hate incidents occur in schools – both in grades K -12 and on college campuses.

SPLC found that 90 percent of the 10,000 educators who responded to a post-election Teaching Tolerance project survey found a “profoundly negative impact” on their school climate. Eighty percent also described “heightened anxiety and concern” over their students and the impact of the election on them and their families. Since Election Day, a wave of hate incidents has washed over the nation, with some schools reporting verbal harassment, the use of racial slurs and derogatory language, Nazi salutes, Confederate flags, the drawing of swastikas and more. 

Teachers, counselors and administrators overwhelmingly noted the impact of this election cycle. The divisive rhetoric in the campaign used to incite fear in Americans has contributed to the already poor state of bullying in our schools. 

The anti-immigrant, anti-refugee rhetoric has also lead the Department of Education to take action. In an open letter to educators, the DOE urged schools to find ways to prevent a trend of hate among their students. In the wake of attacks in Paris and San Bernardino and growing the anti-immigrant rhetoric the DOE warned against attacks on immigrants, refugees, or anyone “perceived to be, Syrian, Muslim, Middle Eastern, or Arab, as well as those who are Sikh, Jewish, or students of color.”

The open letter advised schools to show leadership in times of intolerance and divisiveness. Former Secretary Duncan and incoming Secretary King suggested educators make it clear that harassment is not tolerated while also promoting diversity among their students. Although the letter outlined the federal laws prohibiting discrimination and harassment, in reality, there is a long way to go to ensure enforcement and the protection of students who face harassment.

The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has also stepped up under President Obama to issue guidance for ways K-12 schools and colleges can handle incidents of hate, sexual assault, and abuse. In the 2016 fiscal year alone, OCR received 17,000 complaints and has seen an increase in harassment cases since the Nov. 8 election.

Federal civil rights and education laws are put in place to protect our constitutional rights. The Arab American Institute provides resources on where to report various incidents of hate (including hate and discrimination in schools and on college campuses).