Teachers all across America reported witnessing students in their hallways and classrooms getting bullied or harassed by others following President Donald Trump’s election win in 2016.
Students in Kansas, for example, taunted individuals who had diverse family backgrounds by chanting at them that they were “going back to Mexico,” according to reporting from CNN. Other teachers and administrators acknowledged they saw higher incidents of bigoted vandalism occurring in their schools.
The study that produced these findings two years ago, from the Southern Poverty Law Center, was based on anecdotal rather than actual data collected about bullying. On Wednesday, however, a new study was published that confirms much of what teachers were talking about in the months after Trump won and assumed office.
Francis Huang of the University of Missouri and Dewey Cornell of the University of Virginia conducted a joint study based on a climate survey of 150,000 students across the state of Virginia. That survey asks a variety of questions, including requesting students to be candid about bullying in their schools.
Huang and Cornell looked at two years of survey data, 2015 and 2017, and found that there were higher rates of teasing in the latter year in areas that voted predominantly for Trump over his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.
Rates of bullying, the duo found, were 18 percent higher in locations that preferred Trump over Clinton. Harassment based on identity was also higher in those places: Trump-backing areas were 9 percent more likely to bully someone because of race or ethnic reasons than they were in spots where Clinton won.
The researchers pointed out that their findings didn’t conclude causation per se, merely a correlation between areas that Trump won and a higher rate of bullying. Still, Cornell stated that there was something to learn from the data he and his colleague collected.
“Parents should be mindful of how their reactions to the presidential election, or the reactions of others, could influence their children,” Cornell said. “And politicians should be mindful of the potential impact of their campaign rhetoric and behavior on their supporters and indirectly on youth.”
Some criticism about bullying has been leveled toward the president, and charges of hypocrisy have been leveled toward his wife, first lady Melania Trump, for her anti-bullying campaign she’s been promoting while her husband continues to lash out and name-call others online.
“I remain committed to tackling this topic because it will provide a better world for our children,” Melania Trump said in November, in response to critics of her campaign, according to reporting from the Associated Press.