The superintendent of an Idaho school district apologized Friday after at least a dozen elementary school staffers collectively dressed as a "border wall" and in stereotypical Mexican costumes on Halloween at work — and posted photos of themselves on Facebook.
The employees of Heights Elementary School dressed as a wall in cardboard in a group of costumes made to look like bricks. The slogan "Make America Great Again" was written in red, white and blue letters across their chests.
A handful of other school staff dressed in sombreros, serapes (a long blanket-like shawl) and wore fake mustaches and carried maracas. In one of the pictures, a woman appears to have written "Mexican" in capital letters across the brim of her sombrero.
The photos were posted to the Middleton School District's official Facebook page earlier this week, but have since been deleted. Screenshots of the costumes were posted to social media and also saved by NBC affiliate KPVI.
Josh Middleton, the district’s superintendent, in a video posted to the district’s Facebook page on Friday, issued an apology for what he described as "poor judgement."
"I am here really to share that last night, a parent contacted me expressing concern over staff costumes that were worn on Halloween during the school day," he said in the video. "I have seen those photos and am deeply troubled by the decision by our staff members to wear those costumes that are clearly insensitive and inappropriate."
Middleton said he wanted to express his "sincerest and deepest apologies" and that district administration was "looking into the matter."
The superintendent said that he did not believe there was malicious intent behind the costumes.
"I want to say we are better than this. We embrace all students," Middleton said Friday. "We have a responsibility to teach and reach all students — period."
The school staff who wore the costumes have not been publicly identified and it was unclear whether they will face termination or any other disciplinary action.
By Friday afternoon, Middleton’s video had drawn more than 2,000 comments, 170 shares and 20,000 views.
One Facebook user commented on the video: "Absolutely disgusting! Individuals who promote intolerance & racism do NOT belong in the classroom perpetuating their political ideologies especially to young people! They deserve to be fired!"
Another wrote: "The action taken by the school district will tell all of us what kind of community you are. We already know the teachers are ignorant and insensitive at best, or racists."
A petition created on Friday demanding steps be taken to prevent similar incidents from occurring had more than 1,000 signatures by 7 p.m.
"Now our work begins in looking into this matter and learning from this and changing, and again, being the school we can be, the school district we know we can be, rather than what was displayed on Thursday," Middleton said.