Equity & Diversity

Idaho Educators Who Dressed Up as the Border Wall Put on Administrative Leave

By Sarah Schwartz — November 03, 2018 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

After photos surfaced of staff at an Idaho elementary school dressed in Halloween costumes as Mexicans and a border wall bearing the slogan “Make America Great Again,” the employees responsible won’t be returning to their classrooms on Monday.

At a special school board meeting called on Saturday morning, Middleton school district Superintendent Josh Middleton said that the 14 staff members at Middleton Heights Elementary School who were involved in the incident had been placed on paid administrative leave, the Associated Press reports.

The announcement comes after pictures of the school employees in costume, originally posted to the district’s Facebook page on Thursday, circulated on social media.

In one picture, six educators are dressed in patriotic outfits—the Statue of Liberty, a bald eagle, and red, white, and blue clothing—holding sections of a prop brick wall with the words “Make America Great Again” written across the panels.

Another photo features seven staff members dressed as Mexicans, wearing sombreros, ponchos, and fake moustaches and carrying maracas.

The pictures have since been removed, though screenshots remain online. As of Saturday, the district’s entire Facebook page has been taken down.

Teachers and others in the education community fiercely criticized the costume decision on Twitter and Facebook, calling it racist and harmful to the students at the school.

“There is no apology that can make this acceptable. ... These are not educators we need in our lives,” wrote Melissa Tirado, an English-as-a-new-language teacher in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on Twitter.

“Teachers may explicitly teach students subjects, but they implicitly instill the values and beliefs of the locality and country,” wrote José Luis Vilson, a middle school math teacher in New York City, also on Twitter. “When we see racist teachers dressing up as ‘Mexicans and walls,’ imagine how marginalized peoples feel in those school walls.”

About 13 percent of the study body at the Idaho school is Hispanic, according to Idaho Ed Trends.

The Idaho teachers’ union issued a statement calling the incident “disturbing and inappropriate,” and offering assistance in providing diversity and cultural competency training for district employees. Both the ACLU of Idaho and PODER of Idaho, an organization that advocates on behalf of DACA recipients and undocumented youth in the state, also condemned the costumes.

Since the 2016 presidential election, students in schools across the country have invoked the border wall to taunt their Latino classmates.

This summer, Education Week analyzed nearly 500 incidents of hate and bias in schools. Among the most commonly reported: Students chanting variations of “build the wall” at Latino peers.

Middleton, the Idaho district’s superintendent, said he was “deeply troubled” by his staff members’ actions in a video posted to the district’s Facebook on Friday, before the page was taken offline.

Calling the costumes “insensitive and inappropriate,” he said that he believed them to be a result of “poor judgment” rather than “malicious intent.”

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

Screenshot via Facebook.

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Reported Essay What the Indian Caste System Taught Me About Racism in American Schools
Born and raised in India, reporter Eesha Pendharkar isn’t convinced that America’s anti-racist efforts are enough to make students of color feel like they belong.
7 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Reported Essay Our Student Homeless Numbers Are Staggering. Schools Can Be a Bridge to a Solution
The pandemic has only made the student homelessness situation more volatile. Schools don’t have to go it alone.
5 min read
Conceptual illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Equity & Diversity How Have the Debates Over Critical Race Theory Affected You? Share Your Story
We want to hear how new constraints on teaching about racism have affected your schools.
1 min read
Mary Hassdyk for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Opinion When Educational Equity Descends Into Educational Nihilism
Schools need to buckle down to engage and educate kids—not lower (or eliminate) expectations in the name of “equity.”
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty