On Friday it became one of the biggest national scandals of the day: One group of staff members at an Idaho school pictured wearing a Trump wall costume while another wore stereotypical Mexican attire.
Social media erupted with outrage and calls for the firing of all faculty members involved. The superintendent of the Middleton School District spoke to the public to express his own surprise and embarrassment when an upset parent showed him photos of the two group Halloween costumes posted on someone’s Facebook page.
“I was shown photos and troubled by the decision by our staff members to wear those costumes that are clearly insensitive and inappropriate,” said district superintendent Josh Middleton said during a Facebook live session with the public. “I want to say we are better than this. We embrace all students. We have a responsibility to teach and reach all students. Period.”
The next morning, the school board placed all 14 staff members on administrative leave. Middleton indicated in his Facebook live chat that he would be investigating the incident, but social media commenters slammed him for even needing an investigation, declaring that the “racist” costumes spoke for themselves.
But then the truth came out.
According to Idaho Press, the school said the costumes were created as part of a “team-building activity” for teachers and was not done during school hours. As part of a contest, each group was tasked with depicting a variety of countries based on stereotypes about those countries.
Photos of just two of the groups — the ones with over-the-top depictions of the U.S. and Mexico — went viral, sparking national fury.
Now as the district decides on what to do next, two petitions have been circulated, one in support of the teachers and one in opposition, the Idaho Press reported.
One Change.org petition states: “As we all know on Wednesday evening photos that included Middleton Heights staff were posted. Unfortunately, the photos were very controversial. 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.”
The petition called for their jobs to be reinstated, while a second petition didn’t directly ask for them to be fired but instead demanded the district heal the emotional damage that had been done and transform the school so it would no longer be driven by “systemic racism.”
“The gross display of dehumanization of Latinx children and the outrageous harm caused by trusted adults that they learn from and look up to cannot be ignored and swept under the rug with a simple apology,” the petition states. “More is required of the teachers and administrators to repair the harm caused to their students, to their community, and to Idaho.”
In case you’re wondering, “Latinx” is a genderless replacement word for “Latino” or “Latina” that originated in the gay community, according to the Huffington Post, and has gained popularity in the last few years.