Racist school bullying has risen in areas that voted for Trump in presidential election, study finds

'Politicians should be mindful of the impact of their behaviour on youth'

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Wednesday 09 January 2019 16:05
US President Donald Trump delivers a televised address to the nation on funding for a border wall
US President Donald Trump delivers a televised address to the nation on funding for a border wall

Racist bullying in US schools has jumped in areas where voters favoured Donald Trump in the general election, a study has found.

Reports of students being teased or put down because of their race or ethnicity were 9 per cent higher in localities supporting the Republican candidate.

The study, which focussed on voting patterns and bullying incidents in the state of Virginia, found that 18 per cent more seventh and eighth grade students experienced some form of bullying in districts where support was given to Mr Trump rather than Hillary Clinton.

There were no meaningful differences in school bullying rates between Democratic and Republican localities prior to the 2016 presidential election, the research found.

It follows nationwide concerns voiced by teachers about increased bullying and teasing in schools following the presidential election.

The study published in Educational Researcher, a journal of the American Educational Research Association, examined 155,000 students across Virginia's 132 school districts.

Researchers asked students if they personally had been bullied at school, and whether they had observed bullying and teasing happening to their peers in school, as part of a survey.

The survey results were mapped onto presidential election results for each school district's locality. The study, which looked at data for 2013, 2015, and 2017, also controlled for locality-wide variables.

For every 10 percentage point increase in voter support for Trump, the researchers found an 8 per rise in reported bullying and a 5 per cent increase in bullying because of a student's race or ethnicity.

US Democrat senators Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer speak following Donald Trump's government shutdown address

Francis Huang, an associate professor of statistics, measurement, and evaluation in education at the University of Missouri and co-author of the study, said: "We found consistent differences in teasing and bullying rates that were linked to voting preferences.

“While our findings do not indicate that support for Trump caused bullying to increase in Republican districts, they do provide some credence to the widespread perception that some types of teasing and bullying have increased, at least in some localities."

Dewey Cornell, a professor of education at the University of Virginia and co-author of the study, warned: “Parents should be mindful of how their reactions to the presidential election, or the reactions of others, could influence their children.

“And politicians should be mindful of the potential impact of their campaign rhetoric and behaviour on their supporters and indirectly on youth."

The academics noted that further research is needed to determine whether there is a direct causal link between Mr Trump's behaviour and student aggression against peers.

“It may be that presidential behaviour has indirect effects on the social environment experienced by students, but we won't know until more studies are conducted,” Mr Huang added.

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