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Go Ask Mom

Schools try to calm students after divisive election

Posted November 11, 2016

— After a year of polarizing ads and divisive language, America continues to feel the effects of Tuesday's elections because opinions can't simply be turned off.

In some cities, the backlash has taken the form of protests, but for many people, it's more personal – a family disagreement, angry posts in a Facebook feed or pointed and snide remarks from a complete stranger.

The discord can be especially hard on children, and area school systems have been trying to help them cope as the adults around them process the historic election.

"We have a school system with teachers and administrators that really support our kids and stand up for their rights," said Karin Ganter Luker, a native of Peru who now lives in Durham.

Durham Public Schools Superintendent Bert L'Homme posted a message Thursday on the district's website and Facebook page and sent it to all families in the school system via automated phone calls to reiterate DPS' commitment to a welcome, inclusive environment.

"DPS reflects Durham’s values of inclusion and respect. We stand for our students’ rights to education and free expression," the message said. "You are all part of our community, and we are here for you."

L'Homme made the move after a DPS staffer noticed a high absentee rate among English as a Second Language students on Wednesday. Republican Donald Trump, who has vowed to deport millions of people in the U.S. illegally and build a wall along the Mexican border, had been elected president the night before.

Luker and other parents said the superintendent's message was reassuring.

"I think it was a turning point for me because I was concerned," she said. "After that, I felt like, yes, this is positive, and we live in a very positive, diverse and supportive community."

"As soon as I heard the message, my whole body had chill bumps on it. It really was a bright spot in the day," parent Merywen Wigley said. "To get a proactive, positive message like this from a leader in our city was very heartwarming."

Wigley said some of Trump's words hurt her and others she knows.

"We have this privilege of white skin and upper-middle-class security, and a lot of people don't, and it really affects the whole community when other people are scared and threatened," she said.

Jim Causby, interim superintendent of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, sent a similar message to families in his district.

"Our schools mirror those characteristics of our community which we cherish most – diversity, inclusion and the freedom to live as we choose. We will continue to support our students and their irrefutable rights for an education free of worry, distress and intimidation," Causby said in his message.

Both superintendents said counselors would be available to speak with students as needed.

"We need to start building a more open society, a more diverse and inclusive society," Luker said.

Kidzu Museum in Chapel Hill also issued a message of inclusiveness to its newsletter subscribers.

Kailey Singleton, visitor services and membership manager, said the museum inside University Place mall was careful not to take sides in the election. But in a county where nearly 73 percent of voters picked Democrat Hillary Clinton over Trump, many people were visibly upset on Wednesday, she said.

"We had several visitors in tears and feeling down and people offering strangers hugs in the museum," Singleton said. "No matter what's going on in the world, we want people to know Kidzu is a safe place for families. All families are welcome here."


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  • Ken Ackerman Nov 13, 2016
    user avatar

    This message was intended to help the students cope with the fact that we live in a very divisive society. One that regardless of the child's age was waved in their faces for over a year. I honestly don't remember ever seeing a political ad on television when I was a kid in the 70s. They cannot be avoided now. They were everywhere you looked on the Internet, on Television, and broadcast regularly on the radio.

    The difference between being mad that Obama won and upset that Trump one is that Obama didn't have his crosshairs locked on any specific group of people. Trump through the last year and a half had made it very clear that there are certain groups that are his "Targets". People were mad about Obama winning, Trump and many of his supporters just plain scare people.

    I'm a white male and I no longer feel safe or even welcome in the US. I cite the shear venom in this comment threat as a portion of the evidence.

  • Ron Coleman Nov 12, 2016
    user avatar

    "We have a school system with teachers and administrators that really support our kids and stand up for their rights," said Karin Ganter Luker, a native of Peru who now lives in Durham

    Then stand up for their right to just be kids. Truth be known kids are fine, it is the adults that are having problems dealing with disappointments in life as it has become today.

  • Jen Hilton Nov 12, 2016
    user avatar

    I still remember March 30, 1981, when someone came into my 4th grade classroom and whispered to my teacher. She started crying, which upset me very deeply. When she composed herself, she told the class that President Reagan had been shot. It was a scary, difficult time, and yes, my teachers and administrators were there to help students and families through it. World events affect children, and schools have to deal with that. I don't think my school should have been "ashamed" to do so.

  • Randall Lamm Nov 12, 2016
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Enough said

  • Mark Hale Nov 12, 2016
    user avatar

    This election proved the brilliance of our founding fathers. The election restored our faith in the process. We were in the the verge of putting another proven criminal in the White House we the people rose up and stopped it at the ballot box. Praise God!

  • Henry Davis Nov 12, 2016
    user avatar

    Pink panty generation. Nothing but sissies.

  • Keith McCraw Nov 12, 2016
    user avatar

    Absolutely pathetic. Unbelievable that we have a generation that is growing up with a mentality of ignorance that MAYBE other people don't think like you do.

  • Steve Smith Nov 12, 2016
    user avatar

    I was going to comment but Will Sonnett's post is perfect. If the educators had any humility they should be ashamed of their actions.

  • Will Sonnett Nov 12, 2016
    user avatar

    This is lunacy. The administrators and staff who have participated in this should not be in any position in education. We should teach children how America's political system works. This is not education, it is indoctrination.

  • Judy Loftin Nov 12, 2016
    user avatar

    When I was a child, I wasn't concerned in the least about the elections. What are these parents doing to their children. they should be developing their minds on the playground. Instead, they are being indoctrinated.