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Idaho school's staff who wore border wall Halloween costumes placed on administrative leave

Posted: 12:28 PM, Nov 03, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-04 15:43:02Z

MIDDLETON, Idaho — Fourteen staff members at Heights Elementary in Idaho have been placed on administrative leave after dressing up for Halloween in costumes many parents and locals are calling "offensive" and "racist."

The teachers and other staff came under fire for dressing as a border wall and group of Mexicans on Halloween last week.

"They should have some kind of sensitivity training — some kind of interaction with other cultures because this — this is what they are passing on to the kids. So it's normalizing — for them — that these kinds of things are acceptable, when, in my opinion, they are not," said Kevin Vallejo, Boise resident.

Middleton School District has now announced it is doing just that. Administrators said there will be an all-district staff meeting for cultural sensitivity training on Nov. 7. Officials said these kinds of training "will continue throughout this school year and at the start of each school year moving forward," according to the administration's release.

The decision was announced Saturday at a special school board meeting where the announcement was made and then the school board went into executive session. The superintendent did not disclose the names of the employees involved.

In response to the controversy, Mark Hopkins has been named principal at Heights Elementary “for now,” Middleton said. Hopkins began the year as principal of Purple Sage Elementary, according to Idaho Ed News. 

Board members participated in a nearly two-hour executive session before returning to open session and reading a statement condemning the employees’ actions.

Photos of the employees posing in their costumes were originally posted on the school district's Facebook page and then later removed. The entire district's Facebook page has since been taken down.

"A patron reached out to me and was disturbed by the photos and then he shared those with me and I was equally, I was disappointed and I saw some inappropriate and insensitive costumes," Dr. Josh Middleton, superintendent, Middleton School District said Friday. 

Friday, the superintendent said the costumes were part of a curriculum unit on character, respect and kindness. 

Superintendent Josh Middleton said this is a learning opportunity for the district and other schools.