Education

Los Angeles-area teachers talk with kids about Trump presidential victory

Preschoolers at World City Center went to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, and on Wednesday they encountered their parents and teachers very upset by the results.
Preschoolers at World City Center went to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, and on Wednesday they encountered their parents and teachers very upset by the results.
Rebecca Bernard/World City Center Preschool

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On Wednesday, teachers and other staff at some public schools had their hands full with fallout from the presidential election the night before.

“Most of the students, I think, are surprised with the results,” said Bell Gardens High School history teacher Joseph Lianoz. “I have seen some students with some emotional concerns. One student said to me, 'Well my parents are not documented, and I’m afraid, what happens if they deport them?'"

Lianoz is comforting students by explaining the difference between campaign rhetoric and governing, which involves passing laws to carry out policy changes. He and other educators, he says, are trying as much as possible to create a safe space for students — who are mostly from Spanish-speaking immigrant households.

At Santa Ana Unified, officials sent out notices to principals and staff on Tuesday night telling them to look out for friction among students arising out of the presidential elections. On Wednesday, most Santa Ana schools didn’t report incidents — except for three.

“I heard of a situation — I didn’t overhear the conversation — of one kid saying, ‘Your parents are going to get deported,'” said Santa Ana Unified Deputy Superintendent Dave Haglund, “and so you have to bring those kids in together to talk about those kinds of comments and how hurtful they are.”

Haglund says the three schools have restorative justice methods for dealing with these incidents. The approach includes restorative circles that allow a group of students to vent their frustrations.

Trump’s harsh campaign rhetoric toward Muslims had some Muslim parents wondering what would happen on campus the day after Trump was elected president.

“I was extremely worried,” said Ambreen Ahmed, about sending her four kids to Irvine public schools the day after the election of Trump.

She and her kids are Muslim. Last year, her eighth grade son was bullied at school by another student because of his religion. She let her son take his cell phone to school — which she never does — so that he could call her in case something happened. Everything was fine.

In the meantime, she said, she’s telling her kids that their job is to work to make their communities more respectful of everyone.

“We are one country, no matter what… we move forward together," Ahmed said.

Late Tuesday night, as the election results seemed to clearly indicate a victory for  Trump, text messages between teachers at World City Center preschool were flying back and forth furiously.

"The teachers are Latinas, and they’re proud of their cultural heritage, and they're also proud and grateful to be in this country,” said the school's co-founder, Rebecca Bernard. "It's a scary time, because what we value here is in direct threat," she said, summing up the gist of the teachers' late-night messaging.

So how to talk about those feelings with their preschoolers? Should they?

"The thing that you can’t lie about is the fact that everybody is devastated this morning, that we’re all sad," Bernard said of her staff.

She spent time searching around online for some help. "The thing that I read for the 3- to 4-year-olds was, 'Wow, they elected a president, and you know, some of us feel like that was a bad choice, it’s a silly country that we live in sometimes.' It just felt inauthentic to me."

So teachers at World City Preschool spent time talking about what it means to have emotions, and why they were upset.

CORRECTION: A previous version had an incorrect title for Dave Haglund. KPCC regrets the error.