For Halloween, elementary school teachers in Middleton, Idaho, wore costumes portraying parts of a border wall and depicting stereotypes of Mexicans. Pictures showing them smiling as a group with the slogan, “Make America Great Again,” were posted to a Facebook page.
The teachers dressed up during school hours, and parents alerted the school administrators to the problem. In addition to their complaints, 12 local advocacy organizations wrote a letter to the superintendent, including this statement:
“The intent or misjudgments of the individuals involved does not undo the trauma experienced by students, families and communities. The impact on these students does not stay only with them but has lasting effects beyond the school or classroom. We believe the school and classrooms have now become hostile environments that are not conducive to the education of the students.”
In response, the school district posted a statement on its website:
The events that took place at Heights Elementary School in Middleton on Halloween are disturbing and inappropriate. The teachers involved, as well as school administrative personnel, and the Middleton School District showed extremely poor judgment.
The messages conveyed are the antithesis of the beliefs and values of the Idaho Education Association and its dedicated members throughout the state.
The IEA and the Middleton Education Association stand ready, willing, and able to assist the district in providing diversity and cultural competency training for Middleton School District employees. As troubling as the situation is, it does provide us with an opportunity for education and growth so that people can be made more aware of how hurtful these kinds of insensitive behaviors can be.
What’s your view of the teachers’ costumes: harmless fun, insensitive, hurtful, or something else?
Assess the district’s statement. Who is the audience and what are the communication objectives? How well does it achieve its purpose.
Write a better apology. How can you demonstrate humility and address concerns more specifically? Include consequences: what should the district do as a result?