Northside ISD changes student mock presidential elections process

Teachers, experts say students should be protected election's harsh language

SAN ANTONIO – Changes are in the air for students at Northside ISD's 71 elementary schools.

"They are going to be voting, but they won't be voting for a president," said Barbara Parisher, an instructional specialist for elementary social studies.

Parisher said her district typically engages all students in mock elections, but not this year.

"This year, we have decided to only do mock elections for fifth grade," Parisher said.

Parisher said fifth-grade students will vote using an intranet web page created by Northside ISD.

UTSA Assistant Dean Mary Dixson, a mother of two, said civility should always be taught to young people and political discourse in elections doesn't have to go off a cliff.

"It's disappointing that we see a level of incivility between two grown people who want to lead this country. And in a lot of ways, it's frightening," Dixson said.

Despite this election cycle's continual challenges with harsh language, Northside ISD students will still engage in studying the electoral process.

"We believe that the rhetoric around this election is not appropriate for young children," Parisher said. "We are emphasizing this year the election process as opposed to the candidate."

Dixson said there has been a silver lining in this year's raunchy political rhetoric: teachable moments.

"How we treat people who are different from ourselves. What is bullying? How is kindness related to politics? It opened up the conversation about touching others when it's appropriate and when it's not,” Dixson said.