Just like their parents, students across the county are casting their own ballots this fall.
Some will vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, others will vote for their favorite wildcat or other fake candidates. But this heated election season has made teaching students about the election this year more difficult than before, educators said.
At least one teacher has canceled a mock election.
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At Isom Elementary School, students are voting for their favorite wildcat, the school’s mascot, partly to remove the tension a mock election that includes the presidential candidates could cause, said Amber Ploutz, second-grade teacher and mock election organizer.
“We talk about the candidates a little bit, but it can be a touchy subject around kids,” she said. “We take the pressure off the harsher side.”
Conducting mock elections in schools isn’t just about choosing candidates for their positions or views, they also teach children about the democratic process, educators said.
“I think our main emphasis is kind of that it is our responsibility to vote and that your vote counts,” said Lisa Shonk, library assistant at East Side Elementary School in Edinburgh, who is organizing the school-wide mock election.
The Indiana Department of Education requires schools to teach about democracy and the process of voting during every presidential election, educators said.
Mock elections are one of the best ways to do that because they allow students to walk through every step of the election process, including registering to vote, educating themselves on the candidates and their views and actually casting a vote for their chosen candidates. Students also learn about past presidents, the role that voting plays in a democracy and discuss what the jobs of governor, senator and president entail.
More than a dozen schools in Johnson County have registered their election with the Indiana Kid’s Election, which will tabulate statewide results for registered schools and will announce the winners the day after the election.
Older students across the county and some elementary schools are still voting for Trump or Clinton for president, and acknowledging that this election season has been unique is part of their education, said Evan Stanifer, sixth-grade social studies teacher at Indian Creek Middle School.
“Overall, yeah, it is a different election, still it needs to be taught, no matter what,” he said.
Middle school students are excited to be able to cast a ballot like an adult, and Stanifer explains that their votes are their own and they can vote for either candidate for whatever reason they want to, he said.
“We tell kids they can vote any way they want to, because in our country, they can vote for anyone they want to,” he said.
Contentious issues aren’t discussed in class, but students who want to dig deeper into the issues or see what candidate they might identify with the most are encouraged to research on their own by going to websites and watching the news before they cast a ballot, Stanifer said.
“We are leaving it to their own interpretation on how far they want to go with this,” he said.