San Diego

Staff, Students Have Fallen Victim to Bullying Since Election: PUSD

"Our students cannot learn when they are afraid or bullied and I know I speak for our full community in saying this cannot continue," a letter to the Poway Unified community read.

Both staff and students at one San Diego-area school district have fallen victim to bullying in the days since the election, and officials are asking the community to band together and create a more positive learning environment. 

In a letter to the community, Poway Unified School District officials said that, since the presidential election, both staff and students have become targets because of their race, religion or political preferences, something school officials say can't continue.

"Our students cannot learn when they are afraid or bullied and I know I speak for our full community in saying this cannot continue," a letter to the Poway Unified community read.

Christine Paik, a spokeswoman for the district, said actions will be taken for some of the several incidents they have seen since the election, depending on the severity. 

What ties the incidents to the election, she said, is some of the rhetoric over the course of the campaign on both sides. 

"We need to come together on this, we cant do it alone," Paik said. "We can't just depend on students alone. We all need to step up, take ownership of the fact that we need to have healthy conversations. We need to have open dialogue without making it personal and hurtful."

Parents in the community, like Heather LaForge, said they were pleased to know the district was being mindful of reactions like this and working to ameliorate it. 

"I think it's important for our kids to see that while there are diverse views we need to treat each other with respect and love and kindness," LaForge said.

She said she thought it was important to talk to kids about the voting process. 

"I think its important that we talk about how there's a wide array of political views and how the importance of being in a diverse community is that we can disagree but still treat each other with respect and kindness," LaForge said.

Miguel Carrillo, the principal of Meadowbrook Middle School in the district, has been overseeing the school's Community of Kindness program for five years. 

It teaches students about emotions, self awareness, awareness of others and behaviors. 

"For example, one our monthly lessons last week was, what do you do when somebody has a strong opinion different than yours? What are your reactions? How do you walk away feeling respected but also respecting the other person?" Carrillo explained.

He said the school has been working to teach students on how they react to differences in opinions and otherwise for years - and the election has provided a good way for the students to practice what they have learned. 

"The beauty is, they're prepared for any event that might happen. The elections just happened to come along," Carrillo said. "And it happened to be one of those issues that provided an opportunity for our students to demonstrate everything they've learned for the last three years."

Going forward, Paik said, the district hopes children will keep an open line of communication with their children going forward. 

"In the end, to teach respect and understanding. You can have a completely different view from someone else, but to be able to talk about that without rising to anger, without lashing out, without taking it personally, that's a skill that our students need to learn now and will carry with them into the future as adults," Paik said.

No other information was immediately available.

Check back for updates on this breaking news story. 

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