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Idaho school to reinstate staff who wore controversial Halloween costumes

The Middleton School District announced in a news release Wednesday that it will “welcome our teachers and aides back into their classrooms in the next few days,” having finished an internal investigation involving staff at Middleton Heights who wore controversial Halloween costumes depicting a border wall and stereotyped Mexicans.

“We embrace this opportunity for continuous improvement and striving toward becoming the district we want to be with the outstanding educators we have,” said the statement, signed by Superintendent Josh Middleton.

Middleton Heights will retain an interim principal in place of Kim Atkinson in the meantime, the statement said.

The staff involved with the costumes released a statement as well.

“As educators, we understand our responsibility to our students, our parents, our colleagues, our community and to our profession. While there was no malice or ill will in our intentions, we recently came up short in our understanding of the awareness of the impact of the choices we made, regardless of our intent. Individually and collectively we are taking, and will continue to take, steps to learn, grow, and better understand and embrace cultural differences.

“We remain absolutely committed to ensuring that our students, who we care so deeply about, have a safe and secure learning environment that values all individuals and embraces different backgrounds and points of view. We apologize for our actions and the message it conveyed, and we commit to using this as a starting point for a higher level of growth and understanding.”

Last Friday, the Idaho Statesman reported that pictures of staff members wearing Halloween costumes that portrayed a border wall reading “Make America Great Again” and Mexicans had emerged on social media. The photos, which were posted on the school district’s Facebook page, went viral. Following an uproar online, Superintendent Middleton posted a video response on Facebook Friday morning.

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Margie Gonzalez, executive director of the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs, said her office received emails and calls from offended people all over the United States after news broke that employees of an elementary school in Middleton had dressed up as Mexican stereotypes and held a mock border wall that read “Make America Great Again.” Screenshot via Facebook

On Saturday, Superintendent Middleton announced that the 14 staff members involved had been placed on administrative leave. A petition to reinstate the staffers and principal was posted on Sunday. It amassed 17,122 signatures.

“It is important to note that after the district’s review, it has been validated that there is nothing more than love and commitment in the hearts of these teachers and aides,” Wednesday’s release stated. “The educators involved chose the profession to work with and educate ALL students, and we are confident in their abilities to provide an effective learning environment for every student in the building.”