President Donald Trump’s embrace of white supremacists and his hateful rhetoric has infected high school students who think there’s nothing wrong with acting like him, according to a new study that was released on Wednesday.
The University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) report, titled “School and Society in the Age of Trump,” paints a picture of an overwhelming number of high school principals struggling to manage “contentious classroom environments, hostile exchanges outside of class, and demeaning or hateful remarks over political views,” in a divisive national environment that the president makes worse.
White supremacists quickly embraced Trump early in his presidential campaign, which began with a speech in which he described Mexicans who entered the United States illegally as criminals and rapists. His racially divisive rhetoric continued into his presidency. One of his lowest moments came in the aftermath of the 2017 violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump defended the white nationalists as “very fine people.”
This report was released as students at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Bronx, New York staged a lock-in to protest a racist culture at an elite school that prides itself on being progressive. The students were angry about a racist and homophobic video made by classmates, as well as what they said was a lack of concern from school officials.
In another case, a school district in Hoover, Alabama was dealing with fallout at its schools from a viral video that surfaced March 2 on social media. In the 1-minute video, white students from two schools in the district were seen making racist statements about Black people and Jews. “F**k n***ers, f**k Jews,” one boy says. A girl injects: “Jews are fine because they’re white. We just need the n***ers gone,” adding that “n***ers” are only good for making rap music and playing football.
In yet another case, police were investigating anti-Semitic fliers with Nazi swastikas that were discovered on March 10 around Newport Harbor High School in California. That happened about one week after a viral photo showed students posing in a Nazi salute while gathered around a swastika formed by red cups during a house party.
“Again we condemn all acts of anti-Semitism and hate in all their forms. We will continue to be vigilant with our stance, and the care of our students and staff,” said Newport school principal Sean Boulton.
The scope of the problem is significant. UCLA researchers surveyed 505 high school principals for the study. More than 60 percent of them reported some of their students had made derogatory remarks about immigrants. At the same time, 80 percent of principals said some of their students had disparaged other ethnic groups.
The UCLA study isn’t the first time that researchers found a link between an upsurge in campus racism and Trump.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) coined the phrase “Trump effect” to describe the impact of the president’s hate speech on the sudden rise in racial bullying. SPLC published a report in 2016 based on 10,000 teacher survey responses. It found that two-thirds of respondents reported an increase in student fears, mainly among minority groups, about their safety after the election.