- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A toxic political atmosphere fueled by nonstop media outrage and ubiquitous protest is showing signs of seeping into classrooms across the country, as reports of bullying against elementary, middle and high school students who openly support President Trump proliferate.

Last week, 12-year-old Gavin Cortina of Missouri was cornered on a school bus by classmates who took issue with his “Make America Great Again” hat. In a cellphone video posted to social media, students yelled profanities at Gavin and tried to jostle the hat off his head. One student eventually walked up and began throwing punches.

Jamie Allman, a radio host in St. Louis, said it’s no surprise that impressionable children behave this way after they see adults failing to resolve their conflicts with civility.

“It seems to me that the media coverage and the kinds of attacks on the president encourage this kind of behavior,” Mr. Allman said Monday on “The Allman Report.” “There’s almost this sense of righteousness that these people have who attack somebody — even what I talked about earlier, these people who are hitting people, Macing people, punching people and all that kind of stuff.

“They feel like they have permission somehow,” he said. “And that’s a tough environment for a sixth-grader to be growing up in.”

Gavin and at least one of his assailants eventually were suspended by the school for their roles in the altercation. The school determined that Gavin had violated its code of behavior by making contact with another student while defending himself, his mother said.

“I think that, in my opinion, they just want to wash their hands of it — discipline everyone involved,” Christina Cortina said on “The Allman Report.” “Their reasoning is that my son made contact when he was pushing the child back to defend himself.”

Mr. Allman wondered whether the school would have reacted differently if Trump supporters were doing the attacking rather than being attacked.

“And, you know as well as I do, let’s put it this way: If that was a gang of Trump supporters and the person being harassed was somebody from the other side of the political aisle, you wonder whether or not this would have been treated the way it’s being treated now,” he said.

Gavin is not the only pro-Trump student to face physical retaliation for his political views. There were several reports of fights breaking out in high schools immediately following the election.

One of the more gruesome involved sophomore Jade Armenio from Woodside High School in Redwood City, California. She made a social media post on the night of the election expressing her support for Mr. Trump, saying, “I hope he wins.”

When she got to school the next day, Jade was tackled and punched and had her earrings ripped out by another girl who accused her of being a racist.

“I don’t think I can name one person on any of my social media accounts who didn’t say their opinion last night,” Jade told KTVU after the attack.

Kathy Zhu, a high school senior who is executive director of the Florida Teenage Republicans, said she also has been harassed by classmates because of her political views. During one incident, a group of girls surrounded her and wouldn’t let her go to class.

She said there was a notable uptick in that sort of behavior after the election, which she attributed in part to highly publicized and sometimes violent protests.

“Right now there are a lot of protests that are really violent and really extreme,” Ms. Zhu said. “I think they’re using it as a basis basically to say that their actions and their words are completely OK. The protests that are streamed right now on the news are just influencing them to do that to others.”

Other reports have shown students being bullied for wearing Mr. Trump’s signature “Make America Great Again” hat.

Logan Autry, a 9-year-old from Fresno, California, said he was regularly confronted by his classmates during the presidential race after buying a red cap at a Trump rally and wearing it to school. The elementary school eventually asked him not to wear the hat because it was causing a disturbance.

“The vice principal came up to me and told me to take my hat off because it brings negative attention from other students,” Logan told ABC 30. “And I said no a few times, and then the principal told me again, and I still said no and refused.”

Connor Mullen, a sophomore at South Portland High School in Maine, said he expected to be taunted by other students for wearing his “Make America Great Again” hat to school during the primary race.

But he was caught off guard by jeers from two adults who work at the school, including a teacher who blurted out, “Thank God you can’t vote.”

“I knew kids would pick on me about it — that’s just kids being kids — but when the adults started doing it, I thought that was problematic,” Connor, 16, told the Portland Press Herald in April. “This is a school that preaches equality.”

Mr. Allman said it’s a troubling sign that students cannot wear a hat supporting the president without being accosted in the classroom.

“It seems like it’s pretty simple that in the United States of America, that you can wear something like that, express yourself and not have to be bullied and pushed around because of it,” he said.

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