2016 — November 16, 2016 at 7:30 am

When Post-Election Bullying Hits Home



For the last week, I’ve been trying to process the election, both as a political analyst who got a lot wrong, and a human being who believes this was a potentially disastrous outcome. Donald Trump’s move to install the owner of a white nationalist website as one of his chief advisers does not assuage the dread.

But much of my time has been consumed by something closer to home. My 14-year-old daughter, Angela, has made news of her own. Two days after the election, she brought a homemade sign to Okemos High School that said, “We Will Fight for America.” She crossed out the words, “We Failed America,” which is something she had heard a lot and doesn’t believe is true. As a member of the school Political Club and Prism (LGBTQ students), she’s no stranger to speaking her mind.

However, when Angela walked through the halls with the sign, a group of older boys surrounded her and started screaming, “Lock her up!” One got up on a bench and loomed over her. Like all of us, Angela had heard that phrase before in watching Donald Trump rallies. And while I found it unacceptable for Trump supporters to scream that about Democratic presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton, I was especially saddened to see teenagers take that cue to bully another student.

The school district has handled this and other incidents swiftly and with sensitivity. This is just one of dozens of school incidents in the news. Not all schools have responded like Okemos administrators did. The video of kids harassing Latino students in the Royal Oak school cafeteria with “Build a wall!” is particularly hard to watch.

My daughter made the call that our family could post about her incident on social media. Since then, several reporters have interviewed me. You may have seen some stories. I am a journalist by trade. I much prefer being on the other side where I’m asking questions. But the reason why we’ve talked publicly about this incident is simple. Angela will be OK. She’s strong. She isn’t going to back down from her beliefs. She has support. But a lot of kids are scared to speak up. She’s heard from several of them since she was shouted down in the halls. So if Angela speaking up helps other kids, it’s worth it.

It’s been an odd experience. Angela and I have had to deal with anonymous trolls (although as a columnist, that’s nothing new for me). Some of my conservative friends have been visibly uncomfortable, which breaks my heart. It sometimes seems like the divide is so vast it can’t be breached, even when children are involved. And some people who don’t even know us have tried to exploit the incident for their own pet cause or agenda.

I’ve accepted all of that and so has my daughter. That’s just the way the world works in the age of social media. What keeps us going are the lovely letters and messages from those who have been bullied. They appreciate Angela taking a stand. As a parent, I couldn’t be prouder of her.