California

Ballots, registration and ‘I voted’ stickers: These middle-schoolers have everything except a vote

Rocking the vote
A day ahead of the election, teacher Brian Simily shows students at Woodland Hills Academy how they can cast a vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
(Joy Resmovits / Los Angeles Times)

The line of voters snaked outside a classroom Monday, through the outdoor hallways of Woodland Hills Academy middle school. 

The holdup: voter registration. There were 225 students in the sixth grade precinct, and it was taking them some time to find their names on a check-in list.

To get there, they had to pass a display near the main office featuring posters with information about each presidential candidate.

As they waited, some giggled. Others played with a hand-sized skateboard. One joked about the line: “We’re making a wall.” Said another: “Don’t vote for Trump! Don’t vote for Trump! Don’t vote for Trump!”

Students at Woodland Hills Academy line up outside their classroom to vote in a mock election.
Students at Woodland Hills Academy line up outside their classroom to vote in a mock election.
(Joy Resmovits / Los Angeles Times )

When they entered the classroom, U.S. history teacher Brian Simily gestured for them to sit and cast their votes. Simily helped arrange the election to show students the importance of voting — even before they are old enough to do so for real. They sat at desks with laptops, clicked to open a form, and chose Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. 

On their way out the back door, eighth-grader Xavier Rios congratulated them and handed out “I Voted” stickers  — just like the ones adults get. One young  voter left, then ran back for the sticker. 

Xavier, 13, had already voted earlier in the morning. Like all of his friends who were willing to state their preference, he favored Clinton. “I like the Democratic side,” he said.

Asked why, he said, “I don’t hate against abortion and gay marriage.”

Xavier said he didn’t know anyone voting for Trump. Of the San Fernando Valley school’s 827 students, 571 are Latino, 126 are white, 63 are Asian, Pacific Islander or Filipino, 63 are black and three are Native American. 

But Xavier’s mother isn’t going to vote, he said. “She doesn’t like either one.”

Students Tanaz Rouhani, 13, and Clelia Amaya, 13, announce the results of their school’s mock presidential election.

Likewise, Isabella Norris, a 13-year-old with red Converse sneakers, said she didn’t know anyone at the school who was speaking out for Trump. Isabella said she voted for Clinton, but a little begrudgingly. She said she doesn’t think abortion is “the best idea” but thinks people should have options. She has family in Alabama, a state she knows is mostly Republican. She said she expected her grandmother to vote for Trump, but she’s leaning toward Clinton.

Clelia Amaya, 13, said the election has become contentious in her family. Her stepfather says Clinton isn’t truthful, and plans to vote for Trump if at all. “We get along better when we don’t talk about politics,” she said. She said she was frustrated that she was too young to counter his potential vote with her own. 

The election has taken a toll on some students. In April, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights advocacy group,  published a paper called “The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential Campaign on Our Nation’s Schools,” which said that teachers had noted increases in bullying during the election season.

Although Simily said he hadn’t seen it, students say otherwise. Ethan Glucroft, 13, said another student greeted a friend of his who “isn’t the most fit” with the words, “Hello, Miss Piggy” — the language former Miss Universe Alicia Machado said Trump used against her.

Clelia said she’d never been bullied over the election, but, “as someone with Hispanic heritage, I do feel offended” by Trump’s comments. 

“And he doesn’t even apologize for what he says,” piped in fellow eighth-grader Tanaz Rouhani.

Monday afternoon, Principal Ted Yamane ambled through the hall. “I’m waiting to hear the results on the P.A., just like everyone,” he said. But already he was excited. “Over 60% of our students voted!” he said.

Just before the closing bell, Tanaz and Clelia stepped into the public announcement recording booth, a small blue-gray room equipped with a microphone.

In all, 504 students participated, Clelia said: 122 sixth graders, 162 seventh-graders, 220 eighth graders. 

Tanaz reminded students to “be respectful of the voters’ choices.” She leaned into the microphone. Clinton, she said, got 442 votes, or 87.7%. Trump garnered 62 votes, or 12.3%.

You can reach Joy Resmovits on Twitter @Joy_Resmovits and by email at Joy.Resmovits@LATimes.com

ALSO

Watch voters describe how this contentious election has made them feel

Name, address mix-ups on mail-in ballots leave some L.A. County voters with few options

Homeless people vote, too: What these unseen voters have to say about the presidential election