Students have been bullying their classmates by invoking President Donald Trump’s name or message across the U.S. during the past school year.
Buzzfeed News has confirmed more than 50 incidents in 26 states where students have been harassed at school using themes they picked up from the Republican president’s campaign and administration.
“As the campaign heated up last year, I started to notice a pretty significant change among my kids,” said Amanda Mead, a 10-veteran English teacher in Spokane Valley, Washington. “They would say things that I have never heard kids in my school district say. Far more vitriolic.”
Most of those attacks have been directed by white students toward black or Latino classmates — who’ve been called slaves or subjected to chants of “build that wall.”
Trump’s critics have compared his rhetoric to a playground bully, and that seems to be the appeal for his younger imitators more than his specific politics.
“Maybe a few of them truly were passionate about those beliefs, but the others seemed to just be doing it to incite a response, to see what will happen,” said Dylan Henderson, a high school sophomore from Atlanta.
The school bullying incidents has played out against the backdrop of hate speech, vandalism and violence that has been inspired by last year’s contentious presidential election, Buzzfeed News reported.
Students have threatened their classmates with deportation, chanted Trump’s name or “white power” at minority students, paraded Confederate flags and spray-painted racial slurs and swastikas at schools around the country.
Some incidents cannot be confirmed because students haven’t been willing to deal with the consequences of reporting harassment, especially when the tormenters are more popular than the victims.
“She didn’t want to talk about it,” said the mother of a teenager from the San Francisco Bay area. “She didn’t want to make a big deal. I was upset. I wanted to go to the principal, but she didn’t want that.”
Schools have frequently reacted quickly when reports of bullying are made, but parents have reacted angrily when children have been punished for saying “build the wall” — which was a prominent part of the president’s campaign.
“Parents got mad that the school said it was racist,” one parent said after a third-grader was scolded for chanting the slogan at a Latina classmate in Louisville, Kentucky.
Administrators have faced similar backlash in other schools, the website reported.
“What is so ‘racist’ about the quote?” one parent said, while another said: “Quoting the POTUS is never inappropriate!”