U.S. High Schools Suffer ‘Rising Political Incivility and Division’ in Trump Era, Principals Say

March 13, 2019, 11:04 PM UTC

A UCLA survey of hundreds of high-school principals found that most high-school campuses are experiencing some of the more troubling aspects of current public discourse in the U.S.

“In the age of Trump, America’s high schools are greatly impacted by rising political incivility and division,” the study, titled “School and Society in the Age of Trump,” concluded. In particular, the principals said that political incivility, misinformation on social media, and racial hostility have had a negative affect in their schools. More than 6 in 10 said some of their students have made derogatory remarks about immigrants.

UCLA researchers surveyed 505 high-school principals at the mid-point of the Trump presidency and found that 89% reported that incivility in the broader political environment had “considerably affected” their schools, and that 83% said the tensions were made worse by “the flow of untrustworthy or disputed information” on social media.

Follow-up interviews with principals revealed that the most common instances of racial hostility echoed Trump’s rhetoric on immigration, including students chanting “Build the wall!” as a way to demean students of color.

“The report is a story of this particular time, not narrowly a story of the actions of this one president, although this president’s actions contribute to it,” John Rogers, a professor of education at UCLA, told Reuters.

The survey also showed that the majority of schools are also experiencing the effects of other contemporary issues, such as gun violence and opioid abuse. Among principals surveyed, 62% said their schools had been hurt by opioid abuse, while 92% say their school had faced problems related to the threat of gun violence.

Many principals said that the social issues are distracting them from their traditional education responsibilities. On average, principals are spending six and a half hours a week addressing the societal challenges addressed by the survey. One in four spend the equivalent of one workday a week responding to those challenges.