When New Hampshire educator Anne McQuade’s refugee and immigrant students first arrive in America, she says they are “hopeful.” They’ve been told about the American dream, and its ideas of opportunity and social mobility contrast the violent, war-torn countries they are often fleeing.
But lately, these students haven’t received the warm welcome they expect. Because of Republican nominee Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant and Islamophobic rhetoric, children are fearful that their family members will be deported or their new country will ban Muslims from entering, said McQuade. After getting off the bus recently, one of her young Muslim students was yelled at by a community member who told the student to “go home, you terrorist.”
McQuade, who spoke to reporters while on a call for the Hillary Clinton campaign, says she has witnessed an increase in racially and ethnically charged bullying as a result of Trump’s campaign. Other educators have too. Teachers around the country recently reported more vicious and divisive schoolyard bullying in a paper compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The report calls the increase the “Trump Effect,” positing that the Republican nominee’s divisive rhetoric is impacting how children treat each other.
Clinton announced Thursday that she is invested in fighting this effect. She revealed a new initiative that would provide federal money for states to help combat bullying.
The plan, called “Better Than Bullying,” would give $500 million in new money to states that develop comprehensive anti-bullying plans, which should address issues like cyberbullying and provide resources for children who have been harassed or victimized.
“Hillary believes that no child should face bullying or harassment, and she believes we all have a responsibility to our kids to act,” Clinton senior policy advisor Maya Harris said on the call.
Clinton discussed the plan at a rally in North Carolina on Thursday, while appearing with first lady Michelle Obama.
“We have to make sure all our kids know America has a place for you. The American dream is big enough for you,” said Clinton at the rally in Winston-Salem. “I can’t think of anything more important than making sure every single one of our children knows they are loved just as they are.”
As part of this initiative, states could get $4 for every $1 of new money invested in fighting bullying. While 49 states currently have anti-bullying laws, most are not comprehensive, said Clinton policy advisor Corey Ciorciari.
Data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that rates of school-based bullying have dropped in recent years. But as a result of the Trump Effect, these numbers could be on the rise, said Tony Coelho, former chairman of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.
“All of a sudden we have a national figure, who is bullying, who is mocking, who is doing all these things,” Coelho said on the call.
McQuade, who teaches English-language learners in Manchester, a federally mandated refugee relocation site, said the data has not yet caught up to what is taking place in schools and communities.
“These kids come to our country to find a better life, and we say, ‘Welcome to America,’ and then they watch television and they’re exposed to angry social media that sends a different message,” McQuade said. “Children, I believe, should be focusing on adjusting to the new country, not worrying about being deported or having a father disappear.”
The nation’s largest teachers union, which has endorsed Clinton, swiftly put out a statement supporting the initiative.
“Like our educators, Hillary Clinton understands that kindness, collaboration and cooperation are important in school and in life,” said National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García in a statement. “The rise in vitriolic speech in classrooms and the anxiety created by Donald Trump illustrate that students need this support now more than ever.”