Elementary school staff dressed as border wall, Mexicans. Now they’re under investigation

Photos of staff at an elementary school in Middleton who were dressed for Halloween as Mexicans, while others posed behind a cardboard cutout of a border wall that says “Make America Great Again,” are circulating across the Treasure Valley’s social media and beyond this morning.

Superintendent Josh Middleton posted a video on the district’s Facebook page on Friday morning denouncing the costumes, which were worn by staff at Middleton Heights Elementary School. He said he offers his “sincerest and deepest apologies” to the families and patrons of the district.

In a statement provided to the Statesman, Middleton said he was contacted Thursday evening by a parent who was concerned about the photos.

“We are better than this,” he said in the Facebook Live video. “We embrace all students. We have a responsibility to teach and reach all students — period.”

The photos were posted from the Middleton School District’s Facebook page with a caption that said, in part, “It was a great day to be a Heights Hawk! We celebrated our RESPECT character winners, single and double marathon runners.”

The photos are now circulating across Facebook and Twitter with parents and Treasure Valley residents. Idaho DACA Students’ Facebook page also posted the photos, noting that the costumes are disheartening, heartbreaking and not funny.

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The Middleton teachers’ costumes depicting Mexican stereotypes were roundly criticized. Screenshot via Facebook

“Do I think there was a malicious intent with this decision? No, I don’t,” the superintendent said in the video. “Was there a poor judgment involved? Absolutely. And we now have to own those decisions.”

District administrators are actively investigating the incident, he said.

“I was shown those photos and was deeply troubled by our staff members (who chose to) wear those costumes that were clearly insensitive and inappropriate,” Middleton said. “... Our time right now is going to be devoted to investigating those events and those poor decisions that were made.”

The Statesman has reached out to the district to determine if the post violated the district’s social media policy and to see if the district is considering any kind of punishment for those wearing the costumes. It also asked who is in charge of running the district’s social media sites. The Statesman has not yet received a reply to those queries.

The district’s technologies policy does state that all users, including students, parents and staff, are “expected to use good judgment” and to follow the policy, including encouraging users to “be safe, appropriate, careful and kind” and to “use good common sense,” among other expectations.

According to U.S. census data, the Latino population of Middleton is 9.5 percent. Data from Idaho Ed Trends, which is managed by Idaho Education News, shows that 12.9 percent of Middleton Heights Elementary students are Hispanic/Latino.

The Middleton School District is asking voters to weigh in on three separate bond measures for Election Day on Tuesday, including one $23.7 million bond for a new elementary school, a $2.75 million bond to address security improvements within the district and a $2.4 million bond to allow the district to make future land purchases for a new school or schools.