Middleton School District superintendent Dr. Josh Middleton announced during a Saturday morning school board meeting that 14 employees of the school district’s Heights Elementary school were put on paid administrative leave following the controversial costumes. After Middleton’s announcement, a statement from the school district’s board of trustees was read aloud, the Idaho Statesman reports.
“This type of behavior has no place in education and certainly is not tolerated here at Middleton School District,” the statement read.
“This situation is being taken very seriously. We are in full support of our superintendent and administrative staff as a full investigation is being conducted, and are awaiting the results of the investigation,” the statement continued. “This is an unfortunate incident of very poor judgment. Yet it is not indicative of the Middleton School District or our teachers as a whole.”
The photos of staffers were posted to the Middleton School District’s Facebook page the day after Halloween and quickly went viral after people from the district and other social media users expressed outrage over the racist costumes. In the photos, half the group is dressed as the border wall, which reads “Make America Great Again,” while the other half are holding maracas while dressed in ponchos and sombreros.
Superintendent Middleton offered his “sincerest and deepest apologies” in a Facebook Live video published to the school district’s Facebook page Friday morning. That video, and the entire district’s Facebook page, has been taken down, as well as the administration section of Middleton Heights’ website.
The Idaho DACA Students Facebook group denounced the Halloween costumes in a Facebook post on Friday, writing: “These photos are extremely disheartening. ALL children should have the right to a learning environment that celebrates all backgrounds... This is heartbreaking. Students deserve better.”
The ACLU of Idaho also published a statement Saturday morning condemning the controversial costumes.
“Regardless of the intent of a teacher’s actions in the classroom, we must focus on and give weight to the impact of such actions on the students who rely on teachers and other school officials for guidance and support throughout their educational experience,” the statement read. “School districts, their staff and other agents have obligations under federal law, state law, and district policies to prevent and protect students, staff, and others from discrimination, bullying, intimidation, and harassment.”
The Heights Elementary school website is still available and upon access, readers receive a pop-up box which contains the board of trustees’ above statement in full and information about other actions the school is taking to prevent incidents like this from occurring again.
According to a note signed by Middleton, the elementary school will receive heightened security, offer a crisis team to support the “social-emotional well-being, for students, staff and parents,” and there will be cultural sensitivity training for all staff members that will continue annually.
“The events of this week we take very seriously,” Middleton wrote. “As hard as these events are for ALL involved, we must learn from this and be better as an entire staff for our students, parents, and the community we represent.”
The Middleton Police Department released a statement Friday writing that they’ve been made aware of the incident and they are increasing police presence at the elementary school “to ensure safety, security, and hope for a peaceful resolution.”
A petition calling for a safer and more progressive educational environment for Middleton school district has been signed by over 9,000 people. Middleton said in his statement to the school district that the situation is still being investigated.