decision 2016

Snack votes and ‘crazy’ debates: What the presidential election looks like through the eyes of an elementary school student

PHOTO: Monica Disare
Tatum Birnhak, Chloe Elton and Chloe Lane stood outside P.S. 41 selling baked goods on Election Day.

For many New York City students, the last few months have been a lesson in American democracy — for better or worse. Even with limited experience, many understood this election season has been abnormal.

“It’s crazy. A lot of people say it’s not supposed to be this way,” said fifth-grader Chloe Lane. “In the last election, it wasn’t this crazy.”

Chloe was one of a handful of students standing outside P.S. 41 in Greenwich Village Tuesday morning, capitalizing on the long polling lines at the school by selling baked goods to voters to benefit their school. Here’s what they had to say:

Chloe Elton and Chloe Lane, fifth-graders

To learn about the election, Chloe Lane and her classmate Chloe Elton participated in a vote of their own. Instead of picking presidential candidates, the students faced a real choice between three snacks: Goldfish, Pirate’s Booty and granola bars.

Each student was assigned a state and teachers tabulated their snack choices using a mock electoral college point system. To add to the drama, the students explained, they will find out the winner of their snack election Wednesday morning — and get to consume it on their next field trip.

Despite the allure of tasty snacks, Chloe Lane said the actual presidential election is “more exciting.”

Tatum Birnhak, third-grader

Tatum Birnhak did not participate in the fifth-grade snack election, but still managed to glean an understanding of how the electoral college works.

She explained that a state like Wyoming, which only has “three electoral vote things,” isn’t as important in the long run as a state with more people.

“Basically, if Trump wins a bunch of small states but Hillary wins the bigger states, Hillary can still win,” Tatum said.

When asked how she felt about Hillary Clinton, she exclaimed “Yay!” and explained her reasoning.“I think it would be a good thing that women would rule for once,” she said.

Calvin Noto shares his views on the election.
PHOTO: Monica Disare
Calvin Noto shares his views on the election.

Calvin Noto, third-grader

In Calvin Noto’s third-grade class, his teacher simulated elections with characters from fictional books. For president, Calvin had the option of voting for Jake Drake or Junie B. Jones, both title characters of popular children’s book series.

Calvin said he ended up going with Jake because his platform included a plan to raise taxes and improve education, including adding 15 extra minutes to each school day, which seemed important.

In his class election, Calvin didn’t have to listen to the candidates arguing like he did in the real presidential election.

“Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are basically insulting each other a lot,” he said.

Sabrina Noto and Dot Lethbridge discuss the presidential election.
PHOTO: Monica Disare
Sabrina Noto and Dot Lethbridge discuss the presidential election.

Dot Lethbridge and Sabrina Noto, fifth-graders

Dot Lethbridge and Sabrina Noto’s teacher made sure they had an exhaustive understanding of each presidential candidate. They were given articles to read, worksheets that compared the candidates on major issues like immigration and national security, and even information about what Trump and Clinton were like as kids.

But they still feel a bit baffled by Trump’s plans. Dot, whose parents are both British immigrants, finds his views on immigration “annoying.” For Sabrina, the idea that Mexico would pay for a border wall is simply impractical.

“I don’t know how that’s even going to work,” she said. “The Great Wall of China did not work out.”

Rolling Back Protections

Colorado’s transgender students will still get to use the bathrooms they choose despite Trump’s order. Here’s why

Six-year-old Coy Mathis in 2013. The Colorado Civil Rights Division ruled that her Fountain school violated her civil rights when it denied her access to the girl's restroom.

Colorado students shouldn’t have to worry about new guidance from the Trump administration that rescinds federal protections for transgender students because of existing state law here.

Colorado lawmakers in 2008 passed a law that forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in public places — including schools.

That law was put to the test in 2013 when a 6-year-old transgender student in Fountain was denied access to a girls’ restroom. The Colorado Civil Rights Division ruled that Eagleside Elementary School violated Coy Mathis’s rights to use the restroom that best aligned with her gender identity.

The ruling was considered a landmark victory for transgender rights in the state and elsewhere.

In 2016, the Obama administration attempted to shore up protections for transgender students under Title IX, the federal statute that since 1972 has outlined protections for students based on sex.

But a federal court blocked the U.S.Department of Education from enforcing schools to allow transgender students to use the restroom of their choice.

Now, the Trump administration is revoking those protections in a move announced Wednesday.

The result: protections for transgender students in some states, such as Colorado, but not in others. Thirty three states have no local laws protecting transgender students’ rights to use the restroom of their choice.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos — who reportedly urged Trump not to roll back the Obama-era protections — said in a statement the department was committed to protecting the rights of all students, but added the issue should be left to states and local school districts.

“Schools, communities, and families can find – and in many cases have found – solutions that protect all students,” she said. “We owe all students a commitment to ensure they have access to a learning environment that is free of discrimination, bullying and harassment.”

Civil rights groups were quick to criticize the new order.

“This is a serious attack by the Trump Administration on transgender students; opening them up to harassment, discrimination, and violence in their schools,” said One Colorado, the state’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group. “No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at their school or college campus. Luckily, Colorado has been on the right side of this issue for years, by including sexual orientation and gender identity in its non-discrimination law, passed in 2008.”

Update: This post has been updated to include a comment from One Colorado.


Indianapolis Public Schools board votes tomorrow on a resolution to support undocumented students. We annotated it.

PHOTO: Alan Petersime

The Indianapolis Public School board can’t protect undocumented immigrants from deportation. But it can do its best to reassure families that school is still safe.

The board will vote Thursday on a largely symbolic resolution to show support for undocumented students.

The move comes amid rising tensions over the Trump administration’s plans to crack down on undocumented immigrants. At recent meetings parents have spoken to the board about families’ fears, and teachers have struggled to reassure anxious students.

“We’ve heard concerns from a number of immigrant students and families,” said board president Mary Ann Sullivan. “We want to communicate our commitment to serving and supporting them in every way we can.”

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee said that the district is already working to serve immigrant students.

“I don’t see it changing our work and what we do already,” he said. “This is the commissioners’ way, and the administration’s, of assuring families that we will continue to maintain the welcoming environment that we have.”

What follows is the full text of the resolution. We’ve annotated it with links to our past coverage and context. Click on the highlighted passages to read our annotations.

RESOLUTION NO. 7736 – February 23rd, 2017

WHEREAS, Indianapolis Public Schools (“IPS”) is committed to creating a safe, supportive, and welcoming learning environment regardless of, among other things, race, religion, nationality, sexual identity, ability, or immigration status; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. Supreme Court in Plyler v. Doe (1982) recognized the injustice of placing discriminatory burdens on the basis of legal characteristics over which children have no control, and held it unconstitutional to deny a free, public education to children who are not legally admitted into the United States; and

WHEREAS, the Board of School Commissioners recognizes the tremendous value and diversity that immigrant students and families bring to the school district; and

WHEREAS, the Board approved the establishment of a Newcomer Program in April 2016 to provide additional academic and community supports to students and families that have recently immigrated to the United States; and

WHEREAS, the Board of School Commissioners, and every person in its employ, is committed to standing with, and supporting, all IPS students and families to the fullest extent possible while complying with all local, state, and federal law;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, by the Board of School Commissioners of the City of Indianapolis, that to the extent permitted by applicable law:

  • IPS will remain a safe and welcoming place for all students and families regardless of their immigration status;
  • IPS policies against intimidation, bullying, or discrimination of any student, including those born outside of the United States or for whom English is a second language, will continue to be strictly enforced to ensure that all students are treated with dignity and respect;
  • IPS will continue to seek opportunities to increase and enhance programs and partnerships that support and assist immigrant students and families;
  • IPS employees shall continue to follow the policy and practice of not requiring social security numbers for any enrolled or enrolling student and will continue to refrain from inquiring about a student’s or parent’s immigration status;
  • As in the past, IPS employees will not collect or provide any information regarding a student’s (or his/her family’s) immigration status, except as legally required;
  • The Board supports U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy that restricts enforcement actions by ICE officers and agents in or around schools, and reminds IPS employees that they shall not assist immigration enforcement efforts unless legally required and authorized to do so by the Superintendent.

The foregoing Resolution No. 7736 was passed by the Board of School Commissioners of the City of Indianapolis this 23rd day of February, 2017.