SUNNYSIDE — Worries about a spike in anti-immigration bullying in city schools after the election of Donald Trump are based on "rumors" rather than actual incidents, the head of the city's school system said.
Asked about post-election harassment, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña told parents at a meeting in Staten Island Wednesday that only three cases had been confirmed since the election — and that the majority of reports turn out to be unfounded.
"I don't think this was as rampant as people were saying," said Fariña at the meeting inside the Michael J. Petrides school.
"There's a lot of rumors going around, but I do think we need to, and we're going to start doing, a lot more civics education."
Fariña told the crowd that she wrote a letter at 5:30 a.m. Nov. 9 after Trump had been declared the winner, telling principals and teachers to let students know they were safe after the "loud rhetoric" of the campaign.
"The letter very clearly stated that our job as educators is to stay focused on work," she said, adding she sent along a list of recommendations on how to handle discussions about the election.
"Our job is to keep calm, to reassure everyone that they're safe and to be vigilant for situations that might have a negative impact on kids."
An article from the Southern Poverty Law Center found teachers reported an increase of verbal harassment, derogatory slurs and incidents involving swastikas, Nazi salutes and Confederate flags in schools around the country since the election.
In Gramercy, a student from Africa reported to staff at the International High School that the day after the election she was told by other students that "elevators are not for immigrants anymore," DNAinfo New York previously reported.
Based on Trump's comments about immigrants on the campaign trail, educators around the city braced for a rise in bullying after his win.
"We have been subject to almost two years of a vitriolic campaign — talk of a 'deportation force,' building a wall, banning Muslims," Thanu Yakupitiyage, of the New York Immigration Coalition, previously told DNAinfo.
"Especially in New York City where schools are extremely diverse and where there are schools that have a majority immigrant population, there’s probably a lot of shock and fear. A lot come from mixed-status homes — their parents might be undocumented. A lot of those children might be thinking, ‘What’s going to happen to my parents?'"
While she said actual cases have been scarce, Fariña told students and parents to report any incidents to the principal so officials can follow up.
"We are following up, but I need names and I need specifics before I do anything about it," she said.
The Department of Education issued much of the same guidelines for guidance counselors and students as it did after 9/11, Fariña said.