For the most part, students attending Manatee County schools are used to attending diverse schools, they get along and they handle any issues “perfectly fine.”
That’s according to Superintendent Diana Greene, who spoke to the Manatee Democratic Club on Tuesday. While primarily there to educate attendees on the upcoming half-cent sales tax extension to benefit the school district, Greene fielded questions from attendees about how students are reacting to the presidential campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and how the district is responding to the recent protests at Manatee High School and Palmetto High School.
On Nov. 8, Manatee County voters will decide whether to extend a current half-cent sales tax to benefit the school district’s capital needs.
“Our students are much more resilient than we give them credit for,” Greene said. “It’s time for us as adults to instill that we’re more alike than we are different.”
When it comes to Trump and Clinton, Greene said she’s not sure how the 49,000 students in the school district are feeling about either presidential nominee and added the district educates students on election processes but doesn’t tell students how to vote.
“This election cycle has not only impacted our students, but it’s impacted our nation,” she said.
An attendee called Trump a bully and asked Greene how and if that’s affected what officials see in the school district. Greene said bullying is a long-standing issue in schools, and that Trump isn’t necessarily to blame for any bullying currently.
“Bullying has been around since life started,” she said. She later added that bullying now is more common on social media.
When it came to issue of the Confederate flag and Black Lives Matter protests a few weeks ago, Greene said the school district must ensure the safety and security of all students but the district also tries to respect students’ rights to free speech. Greene said the students responded amazingly, and if you walked into one of those schools now it’s no longer a point of discussion.
“I have a much more positive view of our students,” she said, adding they may not deal with conflict the same way adults do, but they find ways to find common ground.