Thousands sign petition to reinstate Middleton teachers suspended in costume controversy

Thousands of people have signed a petition seeking to reinstate the 14 staffers suspended from Middleton School District over a Halloween costume controversy.

By 7:30 p.m. Sunday, more than 7,150 people had signed the petition on Change.org. KBOI first reported on the petition.

The petition, started by Jacquelyn Meeker, said the situation was “blown out of proportion, as this was a team building exercise done after school with no students present or involved.” On Friday, photos were posted to the school district Facebook page depicting some staff dressed as a “Make American Great Again” border wall and others dressed as stereotypes of Mexicans. The staff members have not been identified.

“We don’t support the photos, that’s not what the petition is for,” Meeker told the Statesman in a phone interview on Sunday.

“We fully believe in our staff at Middleton Heights and don’t feel that this should cost the men and women involved their jobs and cause further stress to our children,” the petition states. “These men and women are a huge part of our children’s lives and the love and support they give them should not be overshadowed by what happened.”

The petition is directed to Superintendent Josh Middleton, who issued a video apology for the photos on Facebook Live Friday. The Statesman reached out to Middleton on Sunday for comment. Meeker said she has not heard from the superintendent.

It was not immediately clear whether the signatures came from Middleton School District parents. The school serves about 600 students, according to Idaho Ed Trends.

Meeker said she’s received support and messages from people all over. She said she’s also received criticism from all over.

“We had to shut down some of our school support (Facebook) groups because people were constantly messaging us with hateful, hurtful things,” Meeker said.

Meeker said she feels it would be sufficient to have the people involved issue an apology and attend sensitivity training. Comments on the petition echoed that sentiment and expressed support for the teachers, who were placed on administrative leave Saturday morning.

Some commenters said they believed the teachers’ intent wasn’t harmful, while others said the media “blew the whole incident out of proportion.”

“These teachers were participating in a group activity after school hours,” wrote commenter Valerie Lynn. “This should be turned into a teaching moment with discussion with students on both sides of the politics.”

The Statesman has reached out to several commenters via Facebook.

Meeker said she’s also concerned for the students at Middleton Heights, including her own son. She said the suspensions will “turn their whole world upside down on Monday.”

“I don’t see how disrupting (classrooms) is in any way helpful for any of the kids,” she said.

A separate petition, titled “No Racism in Middleton School District,” had more than 7,800 signatures on Sunday. It called for proactive training and awareness on “race, ethnicity and nationality issues,” as well as “an environment where healing is possible for communities directly affected.”