Hillary Clinton accused Donald Trump of encouraging school bullying and provoking fear among young people with his campaign rhetoric in the latest presidential debate.
During Sunday night’s head-to-head, Clinton said Trump was making people feel “uneasy” as she vowed to reach out to all groups in society if she wins next month’s election.
Clinton’s comments on bullying come after similar warnings were raised by the Southern Poverty Law Center earlier this year and again by the National Education Agency last week.
"Children listen to what is being said. There is a lot of fear. Teachers and parents are calling it the 'Trump effect.' Bullying is up," Clinton said. “A lot of people are feeling uneasy, a lot of kids are expressing their concerns.”
The survey of 2,000 US teachers, conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center, suggested that Mr Trump’s election campaign was inflaming ethnic and racial tensions in classrooms around the country.
The survey did not cite any of the presidential candidates by name. But, of a total of 5,000 responses to questions, more than 1,000 mentioned Republican presidential-wannabe Donald Trump.
By contrast, fewer than 200 mentioned either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, the then contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, or Ted Cruz, who challenged Mr Trump in the race to become the Republican presidential nominee.
During his campaign for the Republican nomination, Mr Trump attracted attention for his views on minority groups. He has spoken of deporting millions of Latinos, building a wall between the US and Mexico, and banning Muslim immigrants.
“My students are terrified of Donald Trump,” one teacher, who works at a middle school with a large number of black Muslim pupils, told researchers. “They think that, if he’s elected, all black people will get sent back to Africa.”
More than two-thirds of the teachers surveyed reported that some pupils – mainly Muslims, immigrants and the children of immigrants – had expressed fears about what would happen to them after the election.
One US teacher reported that a pupil in the fifth grade had told a Muslim classmate “that he was supporting Donald Trump, because he was going to kill all of the Muslims if he becomes president”.
“Young children can’t understand why people hate them without even knowing them,” one teacher said.
Another wrote: “My students have one thing in common: apparently America hates them.”
Teachers also told stories of fist fights, playground shouting matches and pupils having panic attacks. In Tennessee, a kindergarten teacher said that a Latino child was told by classmates that he would be deported and trapped behind a wall. He now asks every day: “Is the wall here yet?”
And a middle-school teacher in liberal Portland, Oregon, said that one of her pupils told an immigrant classmate: “When Trump wins, you and your family will get sent back.”
“What does a teacher do?” this teacher said. “If a student says that loudly and brazenly in class, it’s likely far, far worse is happening in the hallway.”
The teacher had been told by her school principal that neither she, nor any of her colleagues, were allowed to discuss the upcoming election with pupils. In fact, the survey showed that more than 40 per cent of respondents were hesitant to teach their students about the presidential election.
Speaking last week, NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said: “As educators, we teach our kids that kindness, collaboration and cooperation are important not just in school, but in in life.
“Donald Trump sets an example that teaches the wrong lesson. He calls women fat pigs, wants to ban Muslims from coming to the country, refers to Mexicans as criminals, and makes fun of people with disabilities.
“The rise in vitriolic speech in classrooms and the anxiety this causes for some of our most vulnerable students shows that Trump’s rhetoric is far more damaging than previously imagined.”