A petition signed by more than 12,000 people supporting teachers who were suspended for dressing as Mexicans and a border wall at an Idaho elementary school claims the situation was “blown out of proportion.”
“Unfortunately, the photos [of the teachers] were very controversial,” reads the petition, called “Save our Middleton Teachers, Staff, and Principal!!” “However, we believe its 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 and cause further stress to our children. 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.”
On Halloween, teachers at Middleton Heights Elementary School smiled for two photos. In one, they wore colorful ponchos, sombreros, and fake mustaches and held maracas. In the other, they lined up to form a border wall spelling out President Trump’s phrase, “Make America Great Again.” According to the Idaho Statesman, the deleted photos were initially posted to the school’s Facebook page with the caption “It was a great day to be a Heights Hawk! We celebrated our RESPECT character winners, single and double marathon runners.”
School board chairman Tim Winkle told the Associated Press that the costumes were part of an after-school “team building” exercise.
And one person, who did not respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment, shared on Facebook and Twitter: “The goal of this exercise was to create an outfit that represented a certain country. There were outfits to represent France, Japan, Germany, Etc. The reason the Mexican group and the USA group was pictured is because they won, because they were the easiest things to dress as because there are very clear stereotypes for these countries. The teachers chose to dress as those stereotypes and went all out, which is why they won. This is why they were pictured and not any other group outfits. They chose to portray the wall for USA because that is a huge controversial issue right now and that is how most of the world knows us, because of trump and the wall. Some of these teachers were for it & some against the wall, but that is not why they did it. They did it to show our stereotype right now.”
Staff dressed up as “Mexicans” and others as a “wall” on which it said “Make America Great Again” at an ELEMENTARY SCHOOL in Idaho.
Superintendent said there was not “malicious intent.”
— Leah McElrath (@leahmcelrath) November 2, 2018
The school community, social media users, and almost a dozen advocacy groups including the ACLU of Idaho and Immigrant Justice Idaho objected to the images. On Friday, the Middleton Police Department also got involved, offering increased security to the school.
“I want to say we are better than this,” superintendent Josh Middleton said in a deleted Facebook video, according to the Washington Post. “We embrace all students. We have a responsibility to teach and reach all students. Period. Do I think that there was a malicious intent in this poor decision? No, I don’t. Was there a poor judgment involved? Absolutely. And we now have to own those decisions.”
Middleton Police have been made aware of the incident that occurred with Heights Elementary School staff. Middleton…
On Saturday, the Middleton school board posted a statement to the elementary school’s website:
“This type of behavior has no place in education and certainly is not tolerated here at Middleton School District. 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 to assure appropriate disciplinary action is taken. We care about each of our students, their education, and their safety. 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. We have caring staff members who go the extra mile for our students on a daily basis. We are committed to learning and improving our district from this incident and to continue with our daily mission of Every Child Learning every day, and will do everything we can to ensure their success.”
“The events of this week we take very seriously,” read the message. “….Effective immediately those involved have been put on administrative leave and we need to please respect their privacy during this time. We are still in an investigative stage of these events.” Per the announcement, the school is implementing “cultural sensitivity training” throughout the year.
Those who signed the petition, created by a person named Jacquelyn Meeker, said the teachers were judged too harshly, writing, “Context matters! Slow down to understand all sides and give these amazing educators the benefit of the doubt. Don’t be so easily offended,” and “Please, let’s get both sides of the story before jumping to conclusions. Y’all are only hurting the children by all of this!”
People also said the school overreacted by disciplining the teachers: “People have become far too sensitive. There was nothing malicious about their actions.” “The world is so quick to judge and call names. If this was done 10 yrs ago no one would have cared. All these people are offended so easily now it’s pathetic.”
A representative of Middleton Heights Elementary School did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment. And the petitioners, including Meeker, that were contacted by Yahoo Lifestyle did not return requests for comments.
Simultaneously, a MoveOn petition called “No Racism in Middleton School District” accumulated more than 10,000 signatures.
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