Chestnut Hill History Teacher Wears Noose to Halloween Parade, Sparks Outrage

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy's Jay Pearcy tries to go for Colonel Mustard, ends up stirring racial concerns.

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy history teacher Jay Pearcy in worst Colonel Mustard costume ever.

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy history teacher Jay Pearcy probably should have opted for the candlestick.

Springside Chestnut Hill Academy is a prestigious pre-K through 12th grade school on Willow Grove Avenue in Philadelphia, the kind of place that will set you back over $130,000 for four years of high school. It has earned a reputation as a progressive, diverse learning environment, but one faculty member has stirred outrage with a Halloween costume that some would say goes against those ideals.

Jay Pearcy is a history teacher and dean of student life for Springside’s middle school for boys. When it came time for the school’s Halloween parade on October 30th, Pearcy and some other teachers decided to show up as board game characters. Pearcy’s costume of choice? Colonel Mustard from the game Clue.

If you’re going to be a character from Clue, Colonel Mustard makes a lot of sense, since he’s probably the most well known “person” in the game. (Professor Plum, Mrs. Peacock, and… actually, that’s all we can remember.) And we’ve seen some decent Colonel Mustard costumes out there on social media.

Pearcy was pretty lazy with his Colonel Mustard costume. We’re told that he had a Colonel Mustard Clue game card attached to his jacket (you can sort of make it out in the photo circulating among students at the school) and a bottle of mustard that he carried around with him. And then he decided to place a noose around his neck.

Now, rope is a perfectly legitimate Clue weapon, and certainly a better bet on zero-tolerance school property than a dagger or a revolver. (But let’s be frank: the candlestick or the monkey wrench would have been foolproof.) And if Pearcy had simply gone with the bundle of rope that is the traditional Clue game piece, like this guy, he probably would have been fine. But he didn’t. He slipped a noose around his neck and traipsed into Springside.

Naturally, people were offended, and on Monday, Springside issued an statement:

SCH Academy issues an apology as a result of a regrettable incident due to teacher’s poor choice in Halloween costume.

On Friday, October 30th SCH hosted its annual Halloween parade. One group of faculty members chose the theme of board game characters, inventively interpreted. Unfortunately, one of the costume choices was inappropriate, and not in keeping with SCH Academy’s mission or philosophy.

In advance of the Halloween parade, guidelines were circulated to community members about the importance of thinking ahead about appropriate choices for costumes, and how to anticipate the possibility of misinterpretation or offensive images.

On Friday, November 6th, with the help of expert discussion facilitators, SCH hosted the first in a series of small group discussion forums for parents interested in sharing thoughts and hopes.

SCH cherishes and celebrates the rich diversity within its community and is committed to working together to build a school community that is diverse, harmonious, and inclusive. There is more work to do as we continue to develop cross-cultural awareness and a shared sense of mutuality and respect.

We thank our community for coming together to begin to rebuild after this incident. There is work to be done and we embrace the opportunity to continue the conversation.

One Springside parent we spoke with rolled her eyes at the whole thing, calling it “P.C. run amok”; according to her, the controversy was started by a small group of vocal parents. But other parents told us that it was actually the students who took the teacher to task, circulating his photo online and demanding answers.

“When the students saw it, they got upset,” says a Springside mom who asked to remain anonymous. “There was a pretty emotional assembly on Friday. It obviously wasn’t malicious, but he’s a history teacher. How could he not understand that this would be upsetting?”

She says she’s been impressed with how Springside has handled the reaction to the costume.

“One thing I like about Springside is that it’s very progressive,” she observes. “This is something that they’re using as a way to open the dialogue about race. If the kids are upset, we have to address it. That doesn’t necessarily mean ruining his life and firing him because he made a mistake, but we need to open a dialogue. I do think that [political correctness] has blown up, but we do have to be sensitive to the needs of people in a diverse community and learn from them if we are going to live in and celebrate that we live in a diverse community.”

Springside communications head Caroline Colantuno tells us that the school plans to continue its open forums and emphasizes that the school has long maintained a diversity program. She would not say whether the offending teacher would face any disciplinary action. Pearcy did not respond to multiple requests seeking comment.