the day after

How educators are handling this complicated, emotional day in America, in their own words

PHOTO: Christina Veiga

It’s a complicated, emotional day in America, and educators are on the front lines.

So many woke up to the news that Donald Trump is the president-elect only to rush off to school — leaving teachers and students to work through what the news means together. In many schools, that means attending to the worries of immigrant students, or young women, alarmed by Trump’s rhetoric. In others, it means guiding students to express their excitement gracefully.

Here’s a glimpse of what the day has looked like so far, from teachers and education leaders who’ve begun to share their thoughts publicly.

Readers, if you see a perspective worth sharing, or have one of your own (tweet-length or otherwise), please share with us here.

Already, the morning proved challenging for many.

What do I say as you wait for me greet you at the classroom door that can ease your mind, to make it right? Will it help if I tell you I spent last night preparing for a special social studies lesson on the election- letters to the next president of the United States- Hillary Clinton. Should I mention, yet again, that I was adamantly “with her” in this election because I was decidedly “not with him.” I had planned for you to write to Madame President, congratulating her but also urging her to change the racist and exclusionary policies that disenfranchise, disempower, and lock up communities of color across the country. Now, I don’t know where to start.

— Emmy Bouvier of Teachers Unite

Today my class of primarily black, Hispanic and female students entered school wondering “How could anyone vote for him?” So, we decided to try to understand the reasons why voters chose Donald Trump as our next president. Amongst questions of if their families would be deported, we looked up why people said they voted for Trump. My students came to the conclusion that many Trump voters are “scared of their futures just like we are.” It was a tough day to lead with a smile, but I also got to witness my students face their fears with grace, compassion and open-minds. The election has made it clear that there is much to teach this next generation, but there is much to learn from them as well.

— Kellyn Platek, fifth-grade teacher in Las Vegas, Nevada

Others are consumed by bigger-picture worries about what Trump’s win will mean, or how to talk about it.

And a few offered words of hope or explained their next steps.

I will give my English students literature – poetry and novels and plays and essays – because the way we learn about the world is by listening to other people and watching and thinking about how they act and think in situations far different from our own. When we read, we see how different we are from others, and of course, how much we are all exactly the same. We all want to be safe, to be loved, to do good in the world, to be respected, and realizing our sameness helps us to love and care for each other better. I will offer the words of the greatest writers in human history and help my students to understand them. Because I’m a teacher.

— Evva Starr, teacher at Thomas S. Wootton High School in Maryland

Sending love and strength to all of you at this incredibly trying time. Honestly not sure where things go from here, but, as a start, let’s tell our children we love them and that we’ll show them what it looks like to live by a code of values when our “leaders” do not.

— Jonas Chartock, CEO of Leading Educators, charter school policy-maker

the next day

‘Will I be deported?’ Inside America’s classrooms in the wake of Trump’s win

Students from Martin Luther Early College in Denver walked out of classes Wednesday to protest Trump's win (RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post).

As teacher Nikki Wilks looked around at her Memphis classroom on Wednesday, her high school students seemed to reflect the divide in the nation itself.

One student, who is black, said she worried about raising her 3-year-old daughter in a nation led by President-elect Donald Trump — a world, she imagines, where she won’t be able to speak her mind about racism or inequality. She told Wilks that she needed a hug.

Another student came in wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap, unfazed by or unaware of the anguish felt by many students in a school with a significant Hispanic population, a frequent target of Trump’s campaign rhetoric.

Wilks, who had supported Hillary Clinton, admitted to being shell-shocked. She was in and out of tears all morning as she tried to teach her 12th-grade English classes at Kingsbury High.

“The classes are much more somber than normal,” Wilks said. “It feels somewhat like everyone is walking around on eggshells, scared that if we actually vocalize it, we are making it more real, more permanent.”

Across the country, educators of all political persuasions tried to offer space for students to process the surprising Election Day results, in which Clinton won the national popular vote but Trump won the White House. At schools in New York, Colorado, Indiana, and Tennessee, school leaders scrambled to react to the news before Clinton had even given a concession speech.

And in the wake of a campaign in which Trump talked about ramping up deportations, building walls, and banning Muslims from entering the country, teachers at schools that serve immigrants and their families faced intensely personal questions. Will I be forced to leave? Will my parents?

Kevin Kubacki, who runs the Neighborhood Charter Network in Indianapolis, recalled a young student from Brazil asking teachers last year if she could form a club encouraging families not to vote for Trump. She didn’t want her friends from Mexico to have to leave, she said.

“For us, this very real,” he said. “Today, our students have a lot of questions and a lot of fears.”

East Bronx Academy for the Future students Carla Borbon, Justin Vargas, Jayla Cordero, and Hugo Rodriguez talk about the election. (Alex Zimmerman)
East Bronx Academy for the Future students. (Alex Zimmerman)

In an early morning huddle, staff members at a Neighborhood school talked about using lessons about the three branches of government to remind students how no one person has ultimate power in America. Staffers also plan to ask a lawyer to meet with parents concerned about their immigration status, Kubacki said.

In the Denver suburb of Aurora, Principal Ruth Baldivia said she heard of two incidents Wednesday in which students were “not being nice to their fellow Mexican students,” telling them they will have to leave the country.

And at Rocky Mountain Prep, a charter network with two elementary schools in Denver, CEO James Cryan said a number of students asked if the election result means that they’ll no longer have a home in the U.S., “or expressed concerns about a specific relative, asking if their father or mother will have to move away.”

Experts say Trump’s vision of an America rid of people who are currently here illegally would be expensive and time-consuming to achieve. But Trump will have wide latitude to quickly roll back the protections that President Obama extended to undocumented immigrants who are law-abiding and who came to the country as children with their families.

In Queens, New York, a ninth-grader named Kevin who came to the U.S. one year ago from Argentina said his immigrant classmates at Newcomers High School arrived to class full of worry.

“They were saying that they could be deported,” he said.

Even before students arrived, educators were grappling with how best to handle the news.

Sarah Scrogin, principal of New York’s Bronx Academy for the Future, woke up Wednesday morning and wondered: When roughly 70 percent of her students are Hispanic, and many have friends or relatives who could face the consequences of Trump’s harsh stance on immigration, could teachers simply carry on with normal activities? On the other hand, would it be appropriate for teachers to share their own political views as a way of comforting students — or themselves?

“Our job as educators is not to tell others what to think,” she wrote in a morning email to staff, “but rather, to work together with young people to develop their own critical thinking.”

Rayne Macias, of Fairview High, and Jason Segovia, hug as they walk down the street with protesting Boulder High students. morning to protest the (Cliff Grassmick, Boulder Daily Camera).
Rayne Macias, of Fairview High, and Jason Segovia, hug as they walk down the street with protesting Boulder High students. (Cliff Grassmick, Boulder Daily Camera)

Christine Montera, who teaches Advanced Placement U.S. History, got that email and arranged her classroom’s desks into a circle for students to talk. Opinions in class varied: One student, Carla Borbon, said she was concerned for LGBT people “because this man is homophobic,” she said. “A lot of people were wondering what is going to happen to them.”

Junior Hugo Rodriguez had a different take. “I was annoyed about things people were saying about Donald Trump, saying that he’s a rapist and wanted to deport everyone — that’s not true,” he said. “I actually don’t mind Trump as president.”

Exit polls show that America’s youngest voters were more likely to have voted for Clinton on Tuesday. On Wednesday, many were determined to make their voices heard in other ways.

In Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs, dozens of high school students walked out of class in protest of Trump’s victory. At Denver’s Noel Community Arts School, district leaders invited reporters to an impromptu assembly, where students spoke of their frustration. Some sang “Hallelujah.”

Senior class president Peter Lubembela was one of the speakers. A Congolese refugee who was born in Tanzania, he came to the United States when he was 7.

This morning, Lubembela said he was ready to move forward. “We have to empower ourselves and work harder than before and prove all these stereotypes wrong,” he said.

Melanie Asmar, Eric Gorski, and Yesenia Robles contributed reporting from Denver, Shaina Cavazos and Dylan McCoy from Indianapolis, Caroline Bauman from Memphis, and Christina Veiga and Alex Zimmerman from New York City.

next steps

Terence Crutcher was a KIPP parent, and the charter school network urges action

PHOTO: Creative Commons / Leila Hadd
A KIPP school in the Bronx.

A national charter network is urging its schools to take action this week to show support for the family of Terence Crutcher, the black man shot and killed this week by a police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Crutcher was the parent of a child at a KIPP charter school, the network’s leader told principals in a letter Wednesday morning.

“This is beyond a tragedy. It is an outrage,” KIPP CEO Richard Barth wrote. “While Mr. Crutcher’s death hits home in the KIPP community, it is part of a pattern of violence that has gone on across this country for far too long.”

Now, KIPP is asking its schools across the country to act in solidarity.

“This could involve releasing balloons, holding a moment of silence, posting on social media, or any other actions you see fit,” Barth wrote. “Take a public stand.”

A number of charter leaders have spoken publicly against the violence against black Americans that has fueled a wrenching national conversation about race in recent months. But since June, when multiple shootings heightened the conversation, both a coalition of Black Lives Matter groups and the NAACP came out against the publicly funded but privately managed schools.

Those moves drove away at least one prominent supporter, a Black Lives Matter leader and charter school advocate in St. Paul, Minnesota, where a school worker was killed by a police officer in June.

But Barth’s message suggests that he is sticking by both the movement and the nonprofit. While he does not mention Black Lives Matter by name in his letter, he emphasizes the idea central to the movement: “For many of our KIPP families and students, the threat of police violence is a constant worry. There is a very real sense that no place is safe for black and brown bodies.”

He also vows to support the NAACP’s Pledge to Protect and Preserve Our Lives, a call to cut funding to police departments shown to discriminate and to create a system to review police shootings.

Here is the full letter:

Dear KIPP Team and Family,

By now, many of you have heard about Terence Crutcher, an unarmed African American male who was fatally shot by police in Tulsa, OK on Friday. As news outlets have reported, Mr. Crutcher was a beloved father and brother, a college student, and a singer in his church choir.

What you may not know is that Mr. Crutcher was also a KIPP Tulsa parent.

This is beyond a tragedy. It is an outrage. While Mr. Crutcher’s death hits home in the KIPP community, it is part of a pattern of violence that has gone on across this country for far too long. In my view, this is about fear – the senseless killing that can result from fear. Fear is what makes a police officer discharge their firearm on an unarmed person. And if a police officer is that fearful, they either need more training or they should not be a law enforcement officer. Full stop. We must demand this, for fear cripples us – all of us. For many of our KIPP families and students, the threat of police violence is a constant worry. There is a very real sense that no place is safe for black and brown bodies.

Before I share some thoughts on our collective response, I want to share a quick update on KIPP Tulsa. There are grief counselors on campus this week, and staff from the KIPP Foundation and KIPP Oklahoma City are on hand to lend support. School staff met this morning to start processing their reactions, and tomorrow students will read and talk about an adapted version of a CNN article. On Friday the school community will gather on the lawn and release balloons in a show of solidarity with the Crutcher family.

Andrew McCrae, our fearless leader of KIPP Tulsa wants to thank all of the members of our nationwide KIPP team and family who have reached out in support. If you would like to reach out to the school, please contact KIPP Foundation Senior Relationship Manager Quinton Vance at [email protected]

Now, for how we can harness the power of the KIPP community (and our own personal influence, for those of us in positions of privilege.) In my opening remarks at KSS 2016, I said that we need make this part of the fabric of our work—to engage with it every day. Part of that is showing up on issues of social justice, of equity, and of equality.

In that spirit, I ask all of you to consider two things:

Act in solidarity with KIPP Tulsa this Friday, September 23. This could involve releasing balloons, holding a moment of silence, posting on social media, or any other actions you see fit.

This is a systemic issue and will require public officials stepping up and promising to protect black lives. I support NAACP’s Pledge to Protect and Preserve Our Lives. Will you support it? What will you do? [This paragraph is an updated one from a version posted on KIPP’s website.]

And I would like to repeat what I said at KSS, and what I shared last week: get out and vote. And join the 12 KIPP regions hosting voter drives to get others to vote. If we don’t like something in America, we need to exercise our right to change it with our vote.

As a Team and Family, we laugh and we cry together. We live and we learn together. We celebrate and we mourn together. And we show up for each other, and with each other. KIPP is about learning and growing, moving toward a better world. We use education and schools to accomplish that lofty aim. And to do that, we must advocate to create safe and secure environments for our students to develop, and to achieve the better world we all want to see.

Onward,
Richard