In the aftermath of the presidential election this week, local school districts and universities sent messages to their communities to affirm their commitments to values of inclusion, diversity, equity and open discussion.
Palo Alto Unified School District Superintendent Max McGee urged students and families to "emphasize the beauty of diversity, the importance of belonging, and the benefit of coming together during times of transition."
Calling the election "among the most divisive in memory," top Stanford University leadership — new President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, outgoing Provost John Etchemendy and newly named provost Persis Drell — told students, faculty and staff the day after the election that "we must address the divisiveness we have witnessed with the respect, candor and intellectual clarity that befits our academic mission." The next day, Stanford's Faculty Senate passed a resolution reaffirming the university's "commitment to an open and inclusive community that embraces all members, irrespective of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, citizenship, abilities and political views, and that celebrates and learns from diversity."
Judy Miner, the chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, sent a message to faculty and staff Wednesday about both the local and national election results, drawing their attention to one phrase in the district's recently revised mission statement: "developing a broadly educated and socially responsible community that supports an equitable and just future for California."
"We are equally committed to an equitable and just future for the United States of America and we strive towards that end guided by our moral compass and living our core values," Miner wrote. "The work we do is affirming; it is healing; it celebrates the triumph of the human spirit. We will stay the course because that is who we are."
Foothill College's new president, Thuy Thi Nguyen, who is thought to be the first Vietnamese-American community college president in California, also sent a message to the Foothill community.
"We do not need to go far, with many countries represented at Foothill, to know the preservation of democracy requires vigilance," she wrote.
And on Friday, the head of Palo Alto all-girls school Castilleja implored students and alumnae to "not become discouraged about the future of women's leadership" and instead "forge ahead with Castilleja's commitment to close the gaps that so many women still face."
Though none explicitly said so, the messages seemed a direct response to the rhetoric of the campaign of Donald Trump, whose election Tuesday left students of color, immigrants and others worried about the future of the United States — and their place in it.
On election night at Stanford, hundreds of students poured out to White Plaza to protest Trump's election, the Stanford Daily reported. Anti-Trump graffiti with expletives was found the next morning on campus, according to the Daily.
At Palo Alto elementary, middle and high schools this week, there were some "isolated incidents of harassment," McGee wrote in his message. He told the Weekly Friday that these incidents were not physical — mostly "teasing and taunting" — but he "wanted to be clear that we wouldn't tolerate it."
And at Woodside High School, a student who posted her support for Trump on social media was physically attacked by another student at school on Wednesday. The next day, hundreds of Woodside students walked out of class to protest the election results.
Educational leaders encouraged students and their families to be respectful and inclusive in the coming days and weeks.
"Even as we maintain our focus on education and research in service to the world, we must reaffirm our bedrock values of free expression, diversity and inclusion," Tessier-Lavigne, Etchemendy and Drell wrote in their message. "This includes promoting a culture where all opinions can be heard and respected. Our university is enriched by the perspectives we each contribute."
McGee wrote that he was "proud that our students are deeply invested and engaged in our country, and this is a wonderful time to discuss the underlying principles of our democracy: freedom of speech, a collective commitment to equity, and our inalienable rights.
"It is important that we model compassion and respect for all members of our community," he continued. "As caring adults we also have the opportunity to emphasize the beauty of diversity, the importance of belonging, and the benefit of coming together during times of transition."
McGee, as well as the district's student services office, offered on-campus support services, including counseling, to any students who might be in need of additional support, and urged parents to contact the schools on their children's behalf if need be. They also sent links to resources for parents on how to talk with their children about the election.
On Wednesday morning, Stanford administrators also sent students a separate message to offer support services and to invite them to attend open conversations at campus community centers.
"In the days and weeks ahead, we expect the community to come together in additional programs, events and other gatherings that provide an opportunity to reflect on ways in which we can help shape our future," Greg Boardman, vice provost for student affairs, and Elizabeth Zacharias, vice president for human resources wrote in their message.
Foothill's political science and sociology departments also organized a panel discussion on the election this week, and student-government body the Associated Students of Foothill College is hosting an open forum this Monday to further reflect on the results.
Teaching the election
Meanwhile, in classrooms through the Palo Alto school district this week, administrators and teachers made efforts to discuss the election with students of all ages.
At Escondido Elementary School's morning assembly on Wednesday, Principal Chuck Merritt did not speak to the election itself but gave a brief talk emphasizing community.
"My goal was to make students (and others) feel safe by pointing out the adults (staff and parents standing in the back) that are the students 'circle of care and kindness' at Escondido," he told the Weekly. He also asked students to turn and look at their buddy classes, grades that are paired together for the year, to remind themselves that "they are part of a mutually responsible and caring community."
And in a fourth-grade classroom at Escondido, students watched and then discussed a post-election remarks President Barack Obama gave, which reminded a divided country that we "are all on the same team."
At Gunn High School, students in one history class talked about the electoral college and its implications in the election, McGee said.
At Palo Alto High School, journalism teacher Esther Wojcicki said she urged her students to write a story on student response to the election results and had them read national coverage of the results. She also gave her students a second story idea: "what students think they can do to help promote unity in face of the divisiveness of this election."
Other Paly student publications, including Verde Magazine and the Paly Voice, reserved space for post-election coverage, teacher Paul Kandell said.
Gunn journalism teacher Kristy Blackburn said she watched Hillary Clinton's concession speech live on Wednesday with her beginning journalism class. They talked about the election from a journalistic perspective -- Blackburn encouraged students to read a range of media coverage, both national and international -- as well as a more personal one. The class was "subdued" the day after election night, she said.
"We looked at it journalistically, but I told them, 'you may use this time to process what's happened,'" Blackburn said.
Talking about the results of this election in particular has been challenging for teachers, she said.
"I don’t want to be political, but I also don’t want to condone behavior I think is really inappropriate," she said, referring to Trump's campaign. "A lot of us are trying to find that fine line."
As an educator, she seized this week as a teaching moment, telling students: "That's not how we treat people on this campus."