Schools addressing post-election targeting of students

Schools addressing post-election targeting of students

MADISON, Wis. - In the wake of the election, several area schools are seeing an increase in derogatory comments directed at students.

The comments have ranged from culturally insensitive and discriminatory statements directed at students of color and LGBTQ students to derogatory comments about supporters of President-elect Donald Trump.

To deal with the issue, Dean Gorrell, superintendent of the Verona Area School District, sent a letter home to parents. In it he told parents the district has seen an increase in the number of culturally insensitive, derogatory and discriminatory comments.

He went on to say, "The Verona Area School District will not tolerate speech or actions that are harassing, discriminatory, or bullying targeted toward any student, group of students, or staff member."

The principal of Middleton High School, Dr. Stephen Plank, delivered a similar message to students on Friday. He addressed the entire student body and told them the results of the election need to be respected, but also told them discriminatory actions targeting students will not be tolerated.

"We wanted to hit home essentially the sense that as we move forward, certain targeted or isolated behavior, particularly to groups that are often marginalized, is not going to be tolerated here at school. This has to be a safe place for everyone," Plank said.

He has also asked the teachers and staff of the school to increase their visibility in hallways during passing periods and at the start and end of the school day. By engaging the students and making it clear to all students that they are welcomed, school officials hope those students will feel safe.

While working to eliminate discriminatory comments directed toward students, Plank wants students to engage in constructive discussions about the election. Because elections provide an opportunity to study real-world events, doing so can be valuable for students, officials said.

Officials with the Madison School District said the election has been a tough one for several months now, and that they have been offering resources to teachers and students.

"We do have students and families who feel threatened and unsafe during a transfer of power, where we're not sure what's going to happen yet and again, despite our political views, that's real," Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said.

Cheatham said they're doing what they can to offer safe places for students and families to be able to express their fears and make sense of it all.

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