Education

Fresno Unified, Fresno State offer support to students upset over Trump election

Sunnyside students in Fresno discuss the 'Trump effect'

Political science students from Sunnyside High School discuss their feelings about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Jon Bath's class, Tuesday, May 24, 2016.
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Political science students from Sunnyside High School discuss their feelings about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Jon Bath's class, Tuesday, May 24, 2016.

Fresno Unified School District is reaching out to teachers to help them deal with student concerns in the wake of Donald Trump being elected president.

Fresno State is also offering counseling on campus regarding the election.

According to an email from Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson sent to teachers on Wednesday, the district – which is nearly 70 percent Latino – has heard from students who fear for their families’ well-being following Tuesday’s election.

“Some of this concern might be misplaced, but it is our role to ensure our schools and our classrooms continue to be a safe place to learn, engage in conversation and share opposing views as students work to understand,” Hanson said. “I encourage everyone to keep the big picture in mind. Our democracy is still strong, even at this time of transition. To support our youth, let us move forward responding to hatred with kindness, exclusion with inclusion, poverty with justice, and hopelessness with opportunity.”

Please pay special attention to those in your care who might need a bit more love and support in the coming days and weeks.

Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson

On Thursday, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson released a statement reassuring students that they’re safe in school from discrimination and bullying.

“I know that the outcome of the recent presidential election has caused deep concern among many students and their families.  In California, diversity is strength,” he said in a news release. “California already has, and will always maintain, strong legal and state constitutional protections against any and all kinds of discrimination, regardless of a student’s race, ethnicity, faith, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”

Torlakson also spoke directly to girls: “And I want to tell young women and girls that they will always be safe, be respected, and be protected at school,” he said. “California moves forward, not back.”

Fresno Unified students expressed fear about a potential Trump presidency earlier this year, voicing concerns about deportation despite being U.S. citizens. Their concerns are in line with what the Southern Poverty Law Center called “the Trump effect” in a report released in April. According to the report, teachers across the country have witnessed fear and anxiety among children of color in classrooms, in addition to an increase in bullying against Latino students.

Hanson pointed to lesson plans teachers can use to teach about tolerance and immigration, asking them to reinforce the importance of respect and diversity.

“Please pay special attention to those in your care who might need a bit more love and support in the coming days and weeks,” he said. “In times when our youth are unsure, we can do our best teaching, supporting tremendous development.”

During challenging times, we have the greatest opportunity to listen and learn from one another.

Fresno State President Joseph Castro

Fresno State is also reaching out to students. The university is offering counseling services at its Student Health and Counseling Center on a walk-in basis for “students in crisis” from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Students may also visit “listening tables” hosted by the President’s Commission on Human Relations and Equity to talk about and write down their concerns “in the aftermath of the presidential election season,” according to a news release.

The listening tables were on campus Thursday and will also be set up from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday outside the Henry Madden Library. (The campus is closed Friday for Veterans Day.)

More than 600 students at Fresno State are undocumented, and some have voiced concerns about Trump’s immigration plans.

“I am keenly aware of the serious concerns that many of our undocumented students have about their future. Fresno State is committed to supporting the success of all of our talented students, including undocumented students,” President Joseph Castro said in a statement. “During challenging times, we have the greatest opportunity to listen and learn from one another. I was heartened and inspired by the impromptu conversations I had with many of you on campus and in the community today. Your resilience and optimism will propel us forward as we stay focused on our mission to boldly educate and empower students for success.”

Mackenzie Mays: 559-441-6412, @MackenzieMays

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