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Report: 14 Middleton school staffers on leave after costume controversy

Middleton school superintendent says staff Halloween costumes were 'poor decision' (Courtesy screen grab from Middleton School District Facebook)

Fourteen staff members in the Middleton School District have been placed on paid administrative leave after culturally insensitive photos were posted online showing them dressed up as a border wall and as stereotypical Mexicans, the Idaho Press reports.

"We are better than this," says Superintendent of Middleton School District Josh Middleton. "Here's Middleton, Idaho, not the most diverse community, but that doesn't excuse us."

Despite being taken down from Facebook, these photos quickly circulated on social media, sparking outrage across the Treasure Valley.

Middleton says they are conducting an investigation right now.

"We have talked to the principal and our assistant superintendent human resources director now is conducting interviews up at the elementary school and just to be safe we have beefed up security at our schools," Middleton says.

He tells CBS 2 that the costumes came from a week-long team building activity, which he says was meant to focus on acts of respect and kindness.

"There were six countries, two of those countries decided to get with the theme and chose to dress in those outfits," Middleton says.

Thirteen individuals are pictured in these culturally insensitive outfits, all confirmed that they work for the Middleton School District.

Once these photos were posted to Facebook, an out pour of outrage erupted on social media and across the country.

One person writing: "Disgusting,,,,and in very poor taste..."

Another saying: "The lack of judgement by the teachers is concerning."

And some individuals even calling on the teachers to be fired.

Superintendent Middleton says their phones have been ringing off the hook.

"Our district office has gotten a lot of phone calls from parents and patrons," he said. "A lot of email expressing their concern, once this review is done we will need to look into what sort of training should be done."

The district plans to have the investigation completed with a plan of action moving forward by next week.

Though he says he cannot confirm at this time if any teachers will be dismissed from their positions with the elementary school.

Middleton Police increased patrols and presence at Heights Elementary on Friday.

"I'm deeply troubled by the decision by our staff members to wear those costumes that are clearly insensitive and inappropriate," Middleton said on a Facebook video. "We are better than this."

Middleton PD says it added the extra officers to ensure safety, security and to hope for a peaceful resolution.

CBS 2 News has received several emails and phone calls from upset residents.

"Unfortunately, this is the environment that children are going to school in," one person wrote. "As a mother to a minority child, I would be mortified if this were my child's teacher. They should be fired. "

The district says it's investigating the matter.

JJ Saldana, community resource development specialist for the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs, told CBS 2News that the commission was disappointed in what the educators chose to wear. The agency officers free cultural competency training to local school districts and "we hope they take our offer for free training," Saldana said.

The district says it plans to have the investigation wrapped up and a plan of action by next week.





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