Update: Thursday, November 8
After staff at Middleton's Heights Elementary were put on paid administrative leave for appearing in photos wearing divisive outfits for Halloween, the school district says the educators will go back on the job.
The Middleton School District started reintegrating the 14 teachers and aides featured in the photos back into the classroom Wednesday.
Following an internal review by the district, officials say they're confident in Heights' employees' ability to provide an effective and welcoming environment to all students.
With the review complete, officials say the focus will now turn to healing and training. A release from the Middleton District says the entire staff, district-wide, received cultural sensitivity training this week.
The photos of staff members at Heights wearing ponchos and sombreros, as well as a group dressed as President Trump's border wall emblazoned with "Make America Great Again" went viral online. The district says it received several non-credible threats over the costumes, which law enforcement dealt with.
A heightened security presence will remain at the school as needed.
A release from the employees in the photos offers an apology and pledge to do better at embracing and understanding cultural differences.
Update: Monday, November 5:
In the wake of photos circulating online of teachers at Heights Elementary School in Middleton wearing controversial Halloween costumes, over a dozen members of the staff have been put on paid administrative leave.
Fourteen employees were suspended for the photos depicting two groups of staff wearing costumes incorporating stereotypical Mexican tropes like ponchos, maracas and sombreros and another group dressed as a brick wall. Spanning the multi-person wall costume was the phrase "Make America Great Again."
Dr. Josh Middleton, the superintendent of the Middleton district, announced the staffing decision over the weekend.
In a statement, Middleton says the situation is being taken very seriously and that the kind of behavior the costumes demonstrate isn't welcome.
As the images went viral on the internet, a change.org petition supporting the Heights Elementary staff was created Saturday. The webpage of the petition acknowledges the controversy the pictures created but goes on to say:
"We believe it's been blown out of proportion, as this was a team building exercise done after school with no students present or involved. We fully believe in our staff at Middleton Heights and don't feel that this should cost the men and women involved their jobs."
Over 12,000 people have signed the digital petition as of press time.
The Middleton School District superintendent says an investigation into the incident is ongoing and that sensitivity training will be held for staff.
Original post from Friday, November 2:
Photos of teachers wearing Halloween costumes at Middleton Heights Elementary are going viral and causing controversy.
Initially, the Middleton School District posted the Halloween photos to its official social media. In the pictures, one group of school employees are seen donning stereotypical Mexican outfits with serapes and sombreros. In another photo, a group of educators pose behind sections of what appears to be a brick wall with the phrase “Make America Great Again” spelled out across the segments. The photos have since been removed from official channels.
Friday morning, Middleton School District Superintendent Dr. Josh Middleton offered an apology on Facebook Live.
“I was shown those photos and deeply troubled by the decision by our staff members to wear those costumes that are clearly insensitive and inappropriate,” Middleton said.
The superintendent stressed all students are embraced by the district and said an investigation into the costumes is underway.
Many are troubled by the photos, including J.J. Saldana, community resource specialist with the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs.
“These are educators,” Saldana says. “They’re supposed to be role models.”
He’s shocked the photos were taken in the first place.
“It took coordination, and did they not think what kind of consequences they would have?” asks Saldana. “There’s a total of what – 13 or 14 people there, and none of them thought, ‘Oh, this is a bad idea?’”
He says the apology is appreciated and hopes district-wide diversity training is undertaken.
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