Political conflict hurts California teens’ high school experience, study finds

California is often cited as a bastion of leftist politics, with an electorate that voted for Joe Biden over Donald Trump by a nearly 2-to-1 ratio in 2020.

But a study of high schools in the state shows that California campuses are just as likely to experience political conflict as those in other more polarized states.

“The surprise here is not that California is any different, it’s that our public schools are experiencing similar levels of political attack and conflict to what we’ve seen across the country,” said John Rogers, co – author of the study and director of UCLA. Institute for Democracy, Education and Access.

The study, conducted by researchers from UCLA and UC Riverside, surveyed 150 California high school principals in “blue” congressional districts, where Donald Trump received less than 45% of the vote in the election. 2020 presidential election, and the “purple” districts, where Trump received 45% to 54.9% of the vote.

Trump won more than 55% of the vote in just two California congressional districts, which were not included in the study.

The study was conducted as part of a national survey of secondary school principals.

The results showed that California campuses were not immune to political conflict; school leaders from purple communities in California were significantly more likely than leaders from blue districts to report that “community conflicts” had arisen over issues affecting LGBTQ students and teachings about race and racism.

“About two-thirds of schools in the state are experiencing some level of political conflict, mirroring what we’ve seen in other states,” Rogers said in a news release. “The level of conflict affecting schools appears to reflect the intensive and pervasive nature of what is happening nationwide.”

According to the report, incidents of discrimination against LGBTQ, black and Latino students have increased.

“More than three-quarters (78%) of principals in California said their students had made hostile or demeaning remarks to LGBTQ classmates,” the report said.

Two-thirds of principals said racial slurs were directed at black students, and 50% of principals said racist slurs were directed at Latino students.

“The fact that African American students are the recipients of hostile and demeaning remarks more often than any other group of students is particularly striking given that African Americans represent only 5% of all students enrolled in public schools. of California,” the report said.

“Moving forward,” Rogers said, “we must redouble our efforts to ensure that all California students feel safe and respected in our public schools.”

In purple districts, 64% of principals said the “level of intolerance” among students had increased. No director of the purple districts said that this level had decreased.

Additionally, more than 70% of principals said students had made “degrading or hateful” remarks to students on the other end of the political spectrum.

Where California schools have diverged from national trends is in their advocacy for marginalized communities, according to the report.

“Nationally, school and district leaders from purple communities were 22% less likely than those from blue communities to talk about the importance of LGBTQ student rights,” the report said.

In California, however, school leaders from purple districts were just as likely to speak out as leaders from blue districts.

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