MIDDLETON — Middleton Heights Elementary School staff pictured in a controversial Facebook post last week will be returning to their classrooms in the next few days.
According to a statement from the Middleton School District board of trustees and Superintendent Josh Middleton, the district’s investigation into the incident concluded there was “nothing more than love and commitment in the hearts of these teachers and aides.”
“Our focus is now one of healing with an opportunity for all of us to grow together as a community,” the statement said. “Today we began the re-entry process with training on cultural sensitivity and correspondence with parents, the staff and community.”
Mark Hopkins will continue in his position as interim principal, according to the statement. It hasn’t been announced if or when Middleton Heights Principal Kim Atkinson would return to her position.
The school district placed 14 Middleton Heights staff members on paid administrative leave Saturday after they wore costumes during an after-school staff activity on Halloween depicting national and ethnic stereotypes, including a border wall. By Sunday, petitions in support of and against the teachers had gathered thousands of signatures from Idaho and around the country.
Middleton Police also increased security at the elementary school and around the district in response to gathering protesters and scattered threats against school staff. None of the threats made by phone or online were found to be credible or from within Middleton, according to the school district, and police dealt with them “swiftly.”
On Wednesday, all Middleton School District staff participated in cultural sensitivity training provided by the Middleton Education Association and the Idaho Education Association.
The school district office closed around noon Wednesday for the training, according to signs posted at the office.
The teachers and aides pictured in the Facebook photos apologized in a statement included in Wednesday’s news release.
“As educators, we understand our responsibility to our students, our parents, our colleagues, our community, and to our profession,” the statement read. “While there was no malice or ill will in our intentions, we recently came up short in our understanding of the awareness of the impact of the choices we made, regardless of our intent.”
The superintendent also met with Margie Gonzalez, the executive director of the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs on Tuesday to discuss future training for the school district.
Juan Saldaña, community resource development specialist at the Hispanic commission, said its staff would be focusing on Middleton parents and providing a forum for them to discuss these issues going forward.
Saldaña said the commission also hoped the school district would make cultural competency training and similar events a regular feature of their professional development schedule, not just a one-time occurrence.
“We’re going to try to work on bringing them together,” Saldaña said. “We’ll probably be going to Middleton quite a bit over the school year.”