An Open Letter to the Middleton School District from Authors in the Latinx in Kidlit Community
Last week we learned that educators from the Middleton Heights Elementary School had celebrated Halloween by dressing up as the border wall and in racist stereotypes. Images were shared far and wide on social media. If you aren’t familiar with the incident, you can find some information about it here:
Over the weekend, I was approached by one of my favorite authors, Jenny Torres Sanchez, and asked if TLT could post the following open letter to the Middleton School District in hopes that members of the Latinx authors in the Kidlit community could make an attempt to counter the hate that was on display last week in this school district. We at Teen Librarian Toolbox are happy to post this open letter and hope that you will all read and share it widely. The best way to counter hate and bias is by speaking love, and these authors are offering to do just that. I sincerely hope that the Middleton Heights School District will take these authors up on their generous offer in an effort to undo the damage that these teachers have done to children who are developing their view of self and others and their place in our world.
Superintendent of Schools
Middleton School District
5 South Viking Avenue
Middleton, ID 83644
November 5, 2018
We are a group of award-winning Latinx children’s and young adult authors. We are writing to you to express our love and concern for the children of Middleton Heights Elementary School. While we are disheartened and dismayed by the decision of staff to wear offensive and racist Halloween costumes, we are also writing to extend a generous offer, an offer of compassion that we hope you will see it in your heart to accept.
Children, their welfare, their education, and the shaping of the world, is our business. Many of us are or were educators in addition to being authors for children and young adults. To hear that the children at Middleton Heights Elementary School were subjected to this offensive behavior by the very people they trust and look to for education and guidance was beyond disappointing. And we feel such a drastic offence requires drastic measures to remedy.
While your teachers should know better, their actions show they do not. While we question their intentions at wearing such, in your words, “clearly insensitive and inappropriate” costumes, we are willing to accept your conclusion that they had no “malicious intent.” However, their poor decisions also clearly embraced close-minded and hateful thinking. And worse, modeled it for young impressionable minds.
All of your students deserve better than this. We are sure this was painful and confusing for many of them, and especially for Latinx students. Not only are they subjected to this kind of thinking outside of their school, but now within their school too, a place where they should feel secure and loved. Not excluded.
We take you at your word that you would like to learn from this and change. In that spirit, we would like to help you.
We are extending an offer to visit your school. We would like to talk to your students and staff about the richness of our culture. To show a positive and realistic representation of the very people this costume depicts as one-dimensional beings and implies should be kept out. To show that there is no danger in opening our hearts and minds to ALL people and displaying empathy and love to all mankind.
To this end, we propose a school visit where we will:
- Give a presentation to a general assembly where we will give motivational speeches to inspire students to accept, love, and respect each other as we build community in our country.
- Read excerpts from our books—books which we created to help children understand and treat others with love and compassion.
- Speak to and support your faculty and staff in a meet and greet apart from the general assembly.
- Bring and donate books by Latinx authors to enhance your classroom and school libraries.
We implore you to take us up on our offer. We are eager to visit your school and hope you will welcome us.
Jenny Torres Sanchez
Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Erika L. Sanchez
Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Debbie Reed Fischer
Full Circle Literary Agency
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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