Maureen Costello
Coshandra Dillard

Anti-Immigrant sidebar: Often involve political slogans, 1 out of 27 news reports, 1 out of 5 educator reports, less likely to elicit a response from school leaders.

Animus toward people perceived to be immigrants led to a significant amount of harassment in schools; about 18 percent of the incidents that educators reported were directed toward people seen as “foreign.” This category comprised 4 percent of the incidents reported in the news media.

Many educators reported hearing slurs—including some they thought had been long abandoned. While most of the abuse targeted Latinx students, anyone who was “foreign-looking” was subject to being targeted. 

The anti-immigrant beliefs expressed by young people closely follow the rhetoric coming from the White House. One Texas elementary school teacher dryly noted that “Mr. Trump’s ‘wall’ has encouraged a series of remarks.”


Here’s What “The Wall” Looks Like in Schools:

Elementary students in a rural, majority-
white school chanted “Build the wall!” during class and put paper signs with the slogan on their desks. (reported by educator in Oregon)
Elementary school staff and teachers smiled while posing for pictures in their Halloween costumes. One group wore sombreros, ponchos and fake mustaches while shaking maracas; another lined up so that their brick-painted costumes formed a “border wall,” complete with the slogan “Make America Great Again.” The photos were posted on the district’s Facebook page. (reported by news media in Idaho18)
White high school students interlocked arms and walked together, chanting, “Build a wall! Build a wall!” while making eye contact with students of color. (reported by educator in Washington)

Compared to other incidents, hate directed toward those perceived to be immigrants in school was less likely to make the news. Educators reported that anti-immigrant incidents they witnessed made the news at a rate of about 2 percent—less than half the average. 

These incidents were also less likely to provoke a response from administrators. When confronted with anti-immigrant misbehavior, administrators rarely investigated. And, when immigrants were targeted, few administrators chose to make public statements denouncing the harassment or supporting members of the targeted group.


What Kids Perceived to Be Immigrants Get Told 

  • Go back to … 
  • You’re not American. 
  • You’re not a real American. 
  • You need to go home. 
  • You don’t belong here. 
  • You’re going to get deported. 
  • Your parents will be deported. 
  • ICE is coming for you. 
  • I’m going to call ICE on you.
  • You legal, bro? 
  • I will beat you back to China. 
If your country didn’t want you, why would we? 

Source: Educator survey


"Speak English. This is America!"

—Shouted by parents at Latinx 
players, during a soccer game 
against a majority-white high school (Media report, New Jersey)

Teaching Tolerance collage of images

Welcome to Learning for Justice—Formerly Teaching Tolerance!

Our work has evolved in the last 30 years, from reducing prejudice to tackling systemic injustice. So we’ve chosen a new name that better reflects that evolution: Learning for Justice.

Learn More