Staff members at an elementary school in Middleton, Idaho, which is less than an hour away from Boise, have gone viral after photos of some of the teachers in their controversial Halloween costumes were posted to the Middleton School District’s Facebook page, the Idaho Statesman reported.
In one photo, a group of teachers from Middleton Heights Elementary School wore colorful ponchos, mustaches, and sombreros while holding tiny maracas, intending to resemble those of Mexican heritage. Another photo showed other teachers wearing pieces of cardboard painted to look like a brick wall with the words “Make America Great Again” written on them.
The pictures — captioned “It was a great day to be a Heights Hawk! We celebrated our RESPECT character winners, single and double marathon runners” — have since been deleted, but not before being shared to the Idaho DACA Students’ Facebook page in a post that has been making the rounds across social media.
“Imagine how some of the students felt when they walked into their classrooms on Halloween and saw their teachers (people they look up to) dressed like this,” the post read. “This is NOT funny. This is heartbreaking. Students deserve better.”
The original post to the Middleton School District’s Facebook page containing the photos has been replaced by a video from Superintendent Josh Middleton, who denounced the costumes worn by the educators and offered “his sincerest and deepest apologies” to families and patrons of the district.
According to the Statesman, Middleton was contacted by a concerned parent on Thursday evening about the costumes.
“We are better than this,” the superintendent said in the video that has been viewed over 38,000 times since it was posted this morning. “We embrace all students. We have a responsibility to teach and reach all students — period.”
The video has garnered hundreds of comments overwhelmingly denouncing the photos, with many calling for the participating staff members to be punished or fired for their offensive costume choice.
“Do I think there was a malicious intent with this decision? No, I don’t,” Middleton said in the Facebook post. “Was there a poor judgment involved? Absolutely. And now we have to own those decisions.”
The Statesman reported that the district’s superintendent was sent a letter Friday afternoon from “twelve Idaho-based advocacy groups and non profits,” including the ACLU of Idaho, expressing that they were “deeply concerned” about the costumes.
“The intent or misjudgments of the individuals involved does not undo the trauma experienced by students, families and communities,” the letter said. “The impact on the students does not stay only with them but has lasting effects beyond the school or classroom. We believe the school and classrooms have now become hostile environments that are not conducive to the education of the students.”
The Middleton Police Department wrote in a post to their Facebook page on Friday that they would be increasing their patrols and presence at the school “to ensure safety, security, and hope for a peaceful resolution.”
Superintendent Middleton stated in his video that the incident was being actively investigated by district administrators.
“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,” he said in the video. “Our time right now is going to be devoted to investigating those events and those poor decisions that were made.”