Children of immigrants at public schools in Sunset Park and Bay Ridge have experienced an increase in bullying and hostility since Donald Trump's election victory last week, according to a letter Council Member Carlos Menchaca and local parents sent to Department of Education Chancellor Carmen Fariña.
"Parents have reported to me alarming details of recent student bullying, harmful language, hostile treatment by non-teacher employees, and students overhearing inappropriate comments among DOE staff," Menchaca wrote in a letter first reported by Brooklyn Daily. "'They'd better start packing their bags' isn't something young children should be forced to confront in a school setting."
Sunset Park has large Chinese-American and Mexican-American populations, and Bay Ridge is home to a large Muslim community. Donald Trump announced his bid for the presidency with a speech that, among other things, referred to Mexicans as rapists and criminals—he has recently said he'll immediately deport 2 or 3 million undocumented immigrants and build a wall (and/or fence) along the US/Mexico border. Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist and senior counsel, has previously implied that there are too many Asians in Silicon Valley. Trump previously proposed a blanket ban on immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries, and surrogate Carl Higbie said on Wednesday that World War II-era Japanese internment camps could serve as a "precedent" for the President elect's proposed Muslim registry.
Hate crimes are up nationally, and New York City is no exception. As of November 13th, 328 hate crimes have been committed in 2016, compared to 250 during the same period last year. Across the country, students at grade schools and universities have reported an uptick in racist incidents and hate crimes.
"Schools are safe havens for communities and we are dedicated to providing all students with a safe, supportive, and inclusive learning environment," DOE spokesperson Toya Holness told Gothamist via email. "We have explicit protocols and robust training programs in place to ensure any incidents of harassment, discrimination, or bullying are swiftly addressed."
In his letter, Menchaca urged the DOE to sponsor local community outreach meetings in Sunset Park geared towards Arabic, Spanish, and Chinese-speaking parents whose children are experiencing discrimination and racism in their schools. He also asked Fariña to double DOE staff training in cultural competency "that includes evidence-based techniques for tackling implicit bias."
A spokesperson for Menchaca clarified that there no reports of teachers making racially charged statements, but that what is being "reported to our office is a mix of questionable communication by various people in school settings."
The DOE is reportedly looking into the claims made by Menchaca and is providing schools with additional translation services and other supports. District 15 will be hosting a town hall on November 28th to provide families with information and answer their questions about these incidents.