To Linda Lucker Leibowitz, an expert in the Graduate School of Education in studying childhood bullies, Republican nominee Donald Trump has proven to be a perfect test case.
“Donald Trump’s history of verbal insults and attacks on a variety of people — women, Muslims, the disabled and more — demand that he be held accountable for his insulting words and how it will reflect on the millions of school-age students that school counselors are working hard to protect,” said Lucker-Leibowitz, who serves as associate director of the Executive Program in School and Mental Health Counseling.
She told The Daily Pennsylvanian, “As a school counselor, my goal was to build resilience in kids. And how do you do that? You try to wrap around them with good role models and people who will model the kinds of behaviors that we want our kids to develop.”
When a young boy watches a man say the offensive things that Trump has said, Leibowitz explains, it is possible that it gives the child permission to do so himself, giving the impression that that is what men do.
Having spent 35 years as a teacher, senior career teacher and school counselor within the district of Philadelphia, Leibowitz has worked first hand with children and bullies. She believes that the only way to create a positive outcome of the rhetoric of this election, is to discuss it with children. Asking kids how they feel about it, if it has happened to them, or if they have felt targeted can open the conversation and make a “glass-half-full” view of this situation.
Kids, she said, cannot analyze what he says, but take it at face value, which can go one of two ways: They can be empowered by it and use it as permission to act in such a way, or they can feel targeted by it.
Children who watch bullying, she said, are impacted by it, adding, “I think it touches all of the times when we have felt personally attacked for one reason or another, and it makes all of us feel very powerless right now.”
Politically speaking, Leibowitz said the rhetoric Trump uses has nothing to do with politics, but is personal. She also believes that he is using his insults as a smokescreen, a tactic normally applied to children in which they take attention away from inner feelings and project it on others.
The fact that people are engaged by Trump’s comments, she said, speaks to what needs to be taught to kids and the country about having a clearer multicultural perspective.
School teachers, principals and administrators have worked hard over the years with zero tolerance laws to work against bullying on a wider scale. “For someone to come in and tear down all of the work we have done on such an enormous scale speaks volumes of the kind of man he is,” she said.
Hearing what Trump is saying, and seeing the impact it can have on today’s children, Leibowitz said that “we cannot let this happen.” The only way to fight back, according to her, is to empower children to stand up for themselves.
“If we don’t take advantage of the opportunity to teach kids now, not only to take care of themselves, but to stand up for themselves and others and understand that our difference are unique.”
There are those, she claims, that use their inner powerlessness to engage with Donald Trump, and “the rest of us are scared to death.”
“If you cannot be kind, and you can’t build people up, I find it hard to believe that you could be a democratic ruler.”
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.