National teachers’ union: Trump’s behavior greenlights bullying and bigotry in our schools
The National Education Association is planning a six-figure advertising campaign that will accuse Donald Trump of bullying behavior that wouldn’t be tolerated in the classroom — let alone the White House.
According to the NEA, the largest labor union in the U.S. at 3 million members, Trump’s incendiary rhetoric gives cover to school bullies who harass religious and ethnic minorities.
Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the president of the NEA, said schoolyard taunts have been inspired by Trump’s support for barring Muslims from entering the country and building a massive wall to stop Mexicans from crossing into the U.S.
“Here we are, five weeks away from the election, and we’re seeing bullying behavior from one of the two people who aspire to be the next president of the United States. We take that very seriously,” she said during a media conference call Monday.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign forwarded the NEA’s conference call announcement to reporters earlier in the day Monday. One year ago, the NEA endorsed Clinton in the Democratic primary.
In recent days, her campaign has homed in on child-focused messaging. Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James endorsed Clinton on Sunday as a “champion for children and their futures.” A scathing new Clinton TV ad plays audio of Trump criticizing women’s looks as young girls look at themselves in mirrors. And Clinton herself has cited the supposed “Trump effect” of increased bullying in schools.
Garcia, who taught elementary school for more than 20 years in Utah, said she used to turn every presidential election into a civics lesson by asking students to watch the debates and interview their parents about politics. But she doubts this would be productive in the current political climate.
“I’m not so sure I really want my kids to watch this debate. It’s really kind of disturbing what they’re hearing out there,” she said.
During the media call, Carrie Pugh, the campaigns and elections director for the NEA, said, “We’re spending up to six figures on paid, mail and digital to amplify this message. And, of course, there’s a massive amount of mobilization happening on the ground.”
An April Southern Poverty Law Center report on the Trump effect posits that his campaign has inflamed racial tensions in American classrooms. More than two-thirds of teachers polled said some students — mostly the children of immigrants or Muslims— expressed fear about what might happen to their families if Trump were elected president.
In August, however, PolitiFact noted that it was “not a scientific survey.” The “respondents don’t represent a random sample of teachers, and it’s likely that those who chose to respond to the survey are those who are most concerned about the campaign’s impact on students.”
PolitFact continued: “This means it would be inaccurate to extrapolate from the survey that bullying and harassment are generally on the rise across the country. Rather, it is more a collection of teachers’ anecdotal experiences.”
Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., a Clinton supporter and the first Muslim elected to Congress, said during the Monday conference call that Trump “did not start bullying, but he has slammed his foot on the national accelerator to a disturbing and palpable degree.”
Ellison cited a controversy at the University of Minnesota to demonstrate the effect one of Trump’s core campaign promises has had on the student body there. The school’s College Republicans group painted a controversial “Build the wall” mural, and protesters subsequently spray-painted “Stop white supremacy” over it.