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Amid rising discrimination, students find ways to connect

A new study from UCLA shows discrimination among students is rising in schools nationwide due to political conflicts.
Posted at 6:57 PM, Apr 11, 2023

Our nation's schools are increasingly finding themselves at the center of political battles, whether over critical race theory or other issues in students' textbooks, and new research from UCLA shows that political strife is finding its way into the classroom.

In a new study from UCLAthat surveyed more than 3,000 principals nationwide, 78% of principals reported LGBTQ students had been the target of hostile remarks from other classmates, 66% of principals reported remarks aimed at Black students, and 50% of principals surveyed reported Latino students had been the target of these remarks. 

The study found the highest instances of these attacks were found in schools that reside in purple political districts, where political tension was the highest.

"The context of heightened conflict has emboldened some students that would have otherwise been silent to amplify their voices and to take on their classmates in heightened ways that they wouldn't have before," said John Rogers, director of UCLA's Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access.

The study directly correlates the increases in discrimination to the political battles happening in "purple districts," which the study found saw three times as many reports of this hostility since 2018; but Rogers says one of the findings he found most interesting was not the rise in discrimination, but the fact that principals also reported their students had taken more initiative to bridge those divides and find common ground amongst each other.

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"When people ask where I go [to school] or where I'm from I like to say I go to Rangeview because of so many cultures I've gotten to experience here and so many things I've gotten to experience here," said Hillary Nguyen, a sophomore at Rangeview High School in Aurora, Colorado.

Nguyen is the president of Rangeview's Voices of Diversity Club, a group that works to bring students of various cultures together. In early April, she organized "Taste of Rangeview," which highlights the cuisines of the 130 nationalities represented in the Aurora Public School District. She also helped organize the school's "unified" volleyball game, where students with special needs compete on the same team as neurotypical students.

"It just feels like home in that every school has its issues and every school has its problems, but this school just feels like kids come together," said Lisa Grosz, principal at Rangeview. 

Rangeview is just one of many schools across the country doing similar things to bridge those divides so students feel more welcome and safe each day they come to class.