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Anti-bullying efforts set back by heated political campaign

• Dec 16, 2016 at 4:00 PM

Since the Nov. 8 election, we have seen an increasing in bullying-type behaviors across the country.

Sadly, several of these incidents are taking place in and around schools, with children demeaning other children of different races or religion. It is hard not to ignore that many of these incidents were inspired by the political discourse in this country over the past several months.

Between Nov. 9 and 14, the Southern Poverty Law Center collected 437 reports of hateful intimidation and harassment. Most of the reports involved anti-immigrant incidents (136 such reports). K-12 schools were the highest reported venue of harassment (99) and universities were third highest (67) after businesses (76), showing that heated rhetoric heard during debates and throughout the election cycle has trickled down into classrooms across the country in incidents of post-election bullying.

An online survey that was administered to more than 10,000 K-12 educators across the country was released by the Southern Poverty Law Center last week and the results show educators feel the election has had a negative impact on schools and students. According to the survey, 90 percent of educators report that school climate has been negatively affected. Eight in 10 reported heightened anxiety on the part of marginalized students, including immigrants, Muslims, African-Americans and LGBT students. Half said that students were targeting each other based on which candidate they'd supported.

The stress and examples of inappropriate behavior this election has given our students — in Petoskey and throughout the country — is absurd. Thankfully, the election is over.

As Petoskey school board member Frank Lamberti said in a recent board meeting, "I'm just glad the elections, in general, are over. It's not just this Trump-Hillary thing, it's all these politicians. It's put bullying back 10 years."

As a nation we need to find a way to be better examples for our students and, because of what has happened in this last election cycle, all of our political leaders of every political party need to be the leaders in providing good examples. It would be incredibly helpful if the new President-elect Donald Trump and his defeated challenger Hillary Clinton came out together and denounced, in the strongest terms, bullying and racists and/or bigoted statements said on their behalf. From there they need to be examples to the rest of us on how to behave with our fellow Americans, rather than examples of how to behave like children fighting on a playground.

We are not going to hold our breath that will happen, though, as our president-elect can't even stop from having toddler-like meltdowns on Twitter almost daily.

Instead, much of the responsibility falls on our shoulders to speak and behave in ways we want our children to mirror. The golden rule — treat others as you would have them treat you — knows no political bounds. If we practice it daily and apologize quickly when we don't, we're already on our way to reversing this recent trend.

— PETOSKEY NEWS-REVIEW (AP)

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