Will the parents of my Mexican students ever look at me the same after Halloween in Middleton, Idaho?
On Friday, I had an awesome day at school. I was the guest teacher in a fifth-grade classroom that was mostly minority students. I met a mom as she dropped off birthday cupcakes and she hovered at the door to catch a few last glimpses of her child. We chatted a little, but mostly I just promised her we would do something to celebrate.
She looked worried, so I promised her I would make sure her son felt special. She still had a worried look, like many moms do when handing their child off to a teacher they just met. I smiled extra big for her and bowed down just a little in deference, then headed into the room.
I’m thinking of her today. And I’m thinking of every Mexican parent who is dropping off their most beloved children with teachers today, the Monday after Idaho.
How can they possibly look at their child’s White teacher the same after what happened in Middleton Elementary School?
Staff dressed up as “Mexicans” and others as a “wall” on which it said “Make America Great Again” at an ELEMENTARY SCHOOL in Idaho.
Superintendent said there was not “malicious intent.”
— Leah McElrath (@leahmcelrath) November 2, 2018
How can any parent of a Brown or Black child leave their kid at school without fearing that their skin color or their culture might be mocked by the very person who just promised to be a good guardian?
That wall with “Make America Great Again” made me furious because it violates the trust the general public has in all teachers. Even if the students did not see the costumes, the pictures on the district website mean that these teachers have done harm to students. They’ve all been taken down now, but the damage is done.
Those teachers in Middleton have damaged the trust parents of color might have built with the teachers in their lives. In the eyes of parents of color, that kind of behavior takes every teacher down.
They did not act in the best interest of their students, especially the 12.9 percent of Latino students that make up the school’s student population. They have undermined the entire profession.
I’m sure they are sorry. Public scorn is a deep cut, and they have been placed on leave from their jobs. These teachers now have a pre-costume life and a post-costume life.
But I guarantee you this: Every parent of color who has ever left a kid in their care will now picture those teachers in those costumes.
Every one of those parents will fear for their child. And the child will know that fear as well.
Any teacher that causes mistrust and fear like that should no longer be in the profession.