The Southern Poverty Law Center partnered with the American Federation of Teachers, which formally endorsed Hillary Clinton, to circulate the questionnaire among its 1.6 million mostly Democratic members. The survey was sent out to K-12 teachers and administrators who subscribe to its “Teaching Tolerance” newsletter.
The SPLC’s widely cited report — “The Trump Effect: The Impact of the 2016 Presidential Election on Our Nation’s Schools” — reported that 40 percent of the more than 10,000 educators who responded to the survey “have heard derogatory language directed at students of color, Muslims, immigrants and people based on gender or sexual orientation.”
The takeaway was that Trump-supporting white kids have been harassing minorities at the nation’s schools. And SPLC’s schools report, along with a broader report on alleged Trump-inspired hate crimes — “Ten Days After: Harassment and Intimidation in the Aftermath of the Election” — sparked breathless coverage in the New York Times, Washington Post and other major media.
The reports also triggered a statement Friday from the US Commission on Civil Rights, which expressed “deep concern” that “prejudice has reared its ugly head in public elementary and secondary schools.” The panel called for more federal funding to prosecute “hate crimes.”
But the SPLC didn’t present the whole story. The Montgomery, Ala.-based nonprofit self-censored results from a key question it asked educators — whether they agree or disagree with the following statement: “I have heard derogatory language or slurs about white students.”
Asked last week to provide the data, SPLC initially said it was having a hard time getting the information “from the researchers.” Pressed, SPLC spokeswoman Kirsten Bokenkamp finally revealed that “about 20 percent answered affirmatively to that question.”
Bokenkamp did not provide an explanation for the absence of such a substantial metric — at least 2,000 bias-related incidents against white students — from the report, which focuses instead on “anti-immigrant sentiment,” “anti-Muslim sentiment” and “slurs about students of color” related to the election.
“They left that result out because it would not fit their ideological narrative,” former Education Department civil rights attorney Hans Bader said. “It was deemed an inconvenient truth.”
Founded in 1971, SPLC claims to be a nonpartisan civil rights law firm. But it receives funding from leftist groups, including ones controlled by billionaire George Soros. And a review of Federal Election Commission records reveals that its board members have contributed more than $13,400 to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns.
Bader says SPLC has an agenda to derail the Trump administration before it starts.
“These flawed SPLC reports will be cited by left-wing special interests to try to block the confirmation of moderate and conservative people to posts such as attorney general by falsely making it look like America’s schools and streets are pervaded by bigotry,” Bader said.
Last week, SPLC held a press conference in Washington to demand Trump “reconsider” his picks for White House advisers and attorney general, and “disavow” his immigration policies.
“His own words have sparked the barrage of hate that we are seeing,” SPLC President Richard Cohen maintained. “He has been singing the white supremacist song since he came down the escalator in his tower and announced his candidacy.”
Cohen tied Trump to a number of hate crimes, which he warns will only “spike” once he’s inaugurated. He noted his center recorded 867 alleged anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-black hate crimes in the 10 days following Trump’s Nov. 8 win.
But the SPLC acknowledges that it has not independently verified any of the claims. It collected most of them on its website, many anonymously.
The group won’t use its $315 million in assets to investigate the “hate crimes,” or at least help alleged victims file police reports or provide them counseling or other assistance, but it has offered “sympathy.”
“We wrote back to every submission that provided an email address to express sympathy and encourage them to report the incident to local authorities,” Bokenkamp said.
Bader pointed out that most of the anti-minority “hate crimes” and “hate incidents” cited by SPLC do not legally constitute hate crimes, and many involve constitutionally protected speech.
“It is simply ridiculous that SPLC treats ‘build the wall’ as hate rhetoric,” he said. The center counted people mentioning “build the wall” as 467 incidents of hate.
“Alas, these days the SPLC is mainly a fundraising machine,” said Gail Heriot, a US Commission on Civil Rights member who voted against Friday’s resolution. “The more it can persuade its donors that hate groups have penetrated every nook and cranny of American society, the more money it can raise. Now it wants us to believe that the election has unleashed unprecedented waves of hatred and violence among schoolchildren. Let’s stop and take a deep breath before we assume that’s true. The SPLC has no credibility with anyone — on the left or the right — who is familiar with its methods.”
While there no doubt are legitimate reports of hate crimes against minorities — and even one is too many — hyping such incidents recklessly fans the flames of anxiety among such communities. And suppressing reports of crimes against Trump supporters gives a one-sided and misleading view of post-election discord.
Paul Sperry is a former Washington bureau chief for Investor’s Business Daily and the author of “Infiltration.”
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