For Halloween, several teachers at Middleton Elementary School in Canyon County, Idaho, wore red, white and blue, and stood behind a fake brick wall with “Make America Great Again” written on it. Meanwhile, another group wore sombreros, mustaches, and held maracas. Initially posted on the school’s Facebook page, outrage among parents forced the post to be removed.
“Hispanic parents, a lot of them and especially non-English speaking parents already feel intimidated going into the school,” Juan J. Saldaa from the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs said. “And how does that make students feel They get it from students, and now they’re getting it from teachers, too.”
Nampa resident Estefania Mondragon, a member of PODER (Protecting our Dreams and Empowering Resilience) of Idaho, recalled her days as a student in Canyon County where she was told not to speak Spanish in class.
“I thought that era of discrimination had passed,” Mondragon told the Idaho Press. “I can’t imagine being a student right now and realizing those are elementary school teachers, I am just sickened.”
Mondragon created a petition called “No Racism in Middleton School District,” demanding the district create environments that “provide awareness and consciousness of systemic racism through culturally relevant curriculum, policy change, review of hiring practices, and district wide training.”
Over 10,000 people have signed.
Mondragaon called out in the petition the “dehumanization of Latinx children and the outrageous harm caused by trusted adults that they learn from and look up to.”
Middleton’s population of 7,500 is 9.5 percent Hispanic, according to 2017 U.S. Census Bureau data. The percentage in the district schools averages about 12.5 percent per school.
Parents with pre-school kids talked about leaving the Middleton school district.
Superintendent Dr. Josh Middleton apologized for the “insensitive actions” and said, “Again, we are better than this.”
At an emergency weekend board meeting, some community members said they didn’t want the teachers to lose their jobs, and the board chairman, Tim Winkle, said the costumes were part of a team-building exercise during after school hours. The board decided to place the 14 teachers on leave with pay.
The statement from the board said they’re taking the situation seriously and that, “This is an unfortunate incident of very poor judgement.”
A petition to keep the teachers has over 12,000 signatures, saying the incident has been “blown out of proportion.”
The district is planning a cultural awareness and sensitivity training for the entire district on Nov. 7, and increasing the presence of crisis team members and police to provide support. Middleton said training will continue throughout the year and in the future. It’s not a “one and done” process.
Rachel Park, mother of a 14-year-old student Shiva Rajbhandari, said, “If they are truly sorry, we need to see a significant change and not just with the teachers I am shocked that there are people that believe that this would be OK.”
Rajbhandari, son of an immigrant dad, who went to Saturday’s meeting, said the teachers’ actions, “Alienated Latino students. The way that they portrayed their culture made a very political statement, seven days ahead of an election. It was ignorant and there needs to be disciplinary action.”
He said they can’t let it slide because it affects thousands.
Reader Question: When you have “poor judgement” touted as reasoning, what do you think the school district should do The parents