After Donald Trump won the presidency, I began to hear accounts of fearful students crying at school yesterday, especially LGBT adolescents and children whose parents are immigrants. There were reports of kids chanting "Build the wall," as shown in the the video above from a Michigan school.
Several metro area teachers told me their students were so upset that either they or the school felt compelled to address their concerns. One said students at her middle school students were “terrified. We had to have a special assembly to talk about it. Many students --and teachers --crying.”
Another local teacher said, “They were absolutely apoplectic today. I had one girl, in tears, tell me she packed her bags this morning just in case immigration came to deport them because her family ‘could not afford to buy [her] new things.’ The fear is very real. I had to address it openly in all classes today.”
On a personal note, a family member in the military reported a neighbor’s daughter being told three times by classmates that she would now be sent back to Mexico. The child’s father is an U.S. Army officer and the family is not Hispanic – the girl happens to have an exotic first name that her classmates assumed was Spanish.
Wondering about the veracity of these stories, I queried Georgia teachers last night on Facebook:
Any teachers seeing fearful children? I am seeing social media postings by educators in schools with immigrant and refugee children saying the kids are afraid their parents will be gone when they get home. They fear their parents will be deported. Also seeing posts by teachers in high schools talking about the dread among LGBT students. Is this actually happening or is it apocryphal?
More than 6,000 people read my query and nearly 100 responded or sent me notes.
Here is a sampling:
•Oh, it's happening! My students (majority Hispanic) think their parents will be sent back -- they're all talking about who was born here and who was not...who can stay and who has to leave...
•My daughter and her friends are terrified of what will happen to their immigrant, Muslim, and LGBT friends/classmates and started texting an hour before school...while sobbing. She begged me to stay home, but ultimately went to school to be of support to her friends. She's still very shaken despite all her father and I are doing to help her feel secure and feel that her friends will be okay as well.
•I lead a non-profit that supports parents of traumatized children (most are adoptive/foster families) and also provides trauma-informed school training. We heard from parents and teachers across the country about concerns today. Children telling other children adopted internationally that they will "go back where they came from" (even though their parents know and tell them they are citizens). And some in rural areas particularly reporting that their children who are in mixed-race families were hearing racial slurs. It's happening. And children are scared. We scared them by what we've aired on TV and talked about within their hearing. Parents are dismayed and in some instances keeping the children home, approaching the school about the bullying or extra protection. It's happening.
•I have kids who legitimately think they can be "sent back to Africa" even though they are Americans by birth. I'm sure this comes from people at home. Luckily, we're about to start talking about the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, so I can help them understand why that's not going to happen.
•It's happening all day long, during class and in the hallways. It's emotionally draining to be a teacher right now.
•I had a student say that he was going to be deported.
•Maybe the parents of these young children should be reading children's bedtime stories with them instead of discussing adult issues with them. Children repeat what they hear.
•When another student in kindergarten tells a Latino classmate that he is going to be deported now it has nothing to do with parents causing the problem.
•Kids are definitely worried, as are their parents. I had many students come talk to me about their fears. I got emails from parents, too.
•We live in a very diverse county, racially and culturally and religiously. Our county was one of the few in Georgia that voted for Hillary in fact. My 16-year-old came home from school today and told me a lot of kids in his high school were gloating and wearing Trump shirts. To be expected. He also told me a few classmates asked him on separate occasions if he was leaving the country now. When he said no... why? They said "You're brown...aren't you part Hispanic"? Shocked? I'm not. This is why I've cried all day. My son also told me that in Mrs. Gonzalez' (name changed for privacy) Spanish class they were playing a computer game where the students enter a screen name that pops up on the board when you answer a question correctly. One student choose the screen name DeportMrsGonzales. The teacher as well as two other girls burst into tears.
•I overheard several politically-centric LGBT conversations today, but the one that really got to me was when a senior looked up in the middle of class and said quietly, "I'll never be able to get married now."
•My students used class as a safe place to talk. They were scared, but a few were also afraid to let their families know they didn't like Trump. One Jewish girl. One mixed race girl with an immigrant mother. One African-American girl. Two white students. They all came in and cried. They told me several of their teachers sat in today and didn't teach. Our youth pay attention.