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School Terror On The Philly Mainline!

‘Won’t somebody please think of the children?!’ (Bruce Rolff/Shutterstock [1])

This alert to parents went out from the Lower Merion School District to parents:

Subject: Photo on social media
Reply-To: [email protected]

Good afternoon, LMSD High School Families,

Late this afternoon, it came to the attention of the Lower Merion School District Administration that a disturbing photograph was circulating on social media. The photograph shows a person in a white hooded robe in a hallway at Lower Merion High School.

The robe is part of a monk costume from “Romeo and Juliet.” The monk’s costume — along with many other costumes — were to be used by 9th grade English students to act out the Shakespeare play. The photo appears to have been taken as a student was returning to class for a performance.

As soon as the teacher saw that particular costume, she realized it could be misinterpreted and that its imagery was disturbing. The costume will not be used in future enactments of “Romeo and Juliet.”

We wanted to explain the circumstances behind the photo, should your students see it. Any student or family member who wishes to discuss this incident further should contact their high school principal’s office.

Yours truly,

Amy Buckman
Dir. School and Community Relations

Last month, LMSD attempted to protect its students from the gender-exclusive word “Mister,” [2]sparking protests — this, despite the fact that in 2016, Lower Merion became officially trans-affirmative. [3]

In 2015, a teacher in the affluent school district sent home a form asking parents to consent to their child eating an Oreo:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js [7]

Frailty, thy name is Lower Merion!

28 Comments (Open | Close)

28 Comments To "School Terror On The Philly Mainline!"

#1 Comment By Sherri Edman On January 9, 2019 @ 9:28 am

The sad thing is that LMSD is supposed to be one of the best in the state. It’s considered so highly desirable that parents in Philly “borrow” the addresses of friends so they can send their kids there. Imagine moving heaven and earth to get your kid into a school system and then having to deal with this.

#2 Comment By Tom Marchione On January 9, 2019 @ 9:38 am

Welcome to the affluent Philly burbs. I live in a similar kind of place on the other side of town. Not quite as bad here yet — the teachers and administrators mostly do an excellent job negotiating a difficult political landscape, IMHO — so far. But we’ll get there I’m sure. It will be comply or perish in that business. On a side note, Amy Buckman used to be a reporter for the local ABC affiliate. Very personable, FWIW. But she now makes $105,000 pumping out this dreck for the school district.

#3 Comment By Sands On January 9, 2019 @ 9:55 am

Last month, LMSD attempted to protect its students from the gender-exclusive word “Mister,” sparking protests — this, despite the fact that in 2016, Lower Merion became officially trans-affirmative.

No surprise there. Being trans-affirmative is cool until it affects you. They’re like that about integration too.

To be fair, the Oreo letter was probably a CYA thing. If we’re talking about wealthy white progressives here, they most likely have their children on the latest something-free diet.

#4 Comment By Blooky On January 9, 2019 @ 9:59 am

I really want to see this disturbing picture now.

Maybe one of your intrepid commenters can dig it out?

#5 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 9, 2019 @ 10:21 am

As soon as the teacher saw that particular costume, she realized it could be misinterpreted and that its imagery was disturbing.

Disturbing? How?

#6 Comment By a commenter On January 9, 2019 @ 10:36 am

The Oreo permission slip is to ensure kids with food allergies have the opportunity to be part of the curriculum activity in a manner that respects the parents’ interest in the safety of their child. I know it seems silly, and we expect middle schoolers to know what they can and cannot eat, but cases do still occasionally occur of students even up to high school, having allergic reactions at school because of pressure to eat unsafe foods as part of curriculum activities. I’m thinking specifically of a high schooler who died a few years ago because her teacher told her, incorrectly, that the food they were using for their international food tasting activity was peanut-free. I seem to recall the teacher had gone out of his way to try to get peanut-free food so she could participate fully, and maybe it ended up being a miscommunication with the restaurant, but for parents of kids with allergies (me) this is our worst nightmare. I seem to recall the girl didn’t want to eat the food and there was some pressure from the teacher ensuring her that he had checked that it was peanut-free.

I think letters like the Oreo letter are actually compatible with Orthodox and Catholic approaches to the authority of parents because the letter informs the parents about something happening at the school that may affect their child and gives them an opportunity to intervene to ensure their own interest in their child’s safety is respected.

The equivalent for transgender issues would be a letter from the school to the parents saying your daughter would like to be addressed by the boy’s name [insert name here] at school, please sign here if you give permission or contact the school counselor at xxx-xxx-xxxx if you wish to discuss.

#7 Comment By charles cosimano On January 9, 2019 @ 11:19 am

The solution is simple. Take over the school board in the next election and fire those idiots.

#8 Comment By Elijah On January 9, 2019 @ 11:28 am

This is crazy stuff, but did you see what happened at nearby Wallingford-Swarthmore SD?


A more rich, liberal-progressive insular white enclave cannot be imagined. Strange times.

At my daughter’s tiny liberal arts college a scare was recently prompted when, at a theatre event, a student suspected another student “might have a handgun”. It turned out to be, what a shock, a cell phone.

Frailty, thy name is American student!

#9 Comment By EngineerScotty On January 9, 2019 @ 11:46 am

I remember attending a Chinese funeral once, for the grandmother of a friend of mine. As part of the ceremony (a traditional Chinese funeral, with lots of Buddhist overtones even though the family are not observant; many non-religious Chinese observe Buddhist rituals in much the same way that non-religious Americans celebrate Christmas and/or invoke God in various contexts), the daughters of the deceased, including my friend’s mother, all wore white robes with pointed hoods, that from most angles greatly resembled a Klan uniform. (The big difference in appearance between this and a Klan robe is that the face was not covered or obscured). In many Asian cultures, white is the color of mourning, much as black is the color of mourning in the West.

Much as Nazi use of the swastika has done grave damage to that symbol’s benign uses in other cultures, white robes with hoods have a tendency to freak people out, and with good reason.

I’m sure there’s better Dreher-bait out there than this.

[NFR: You can always be counted on to defend indefensible crap like this. Dominicans wear white robes, you know. The idea that there would be a Klansman walking the halls of a high school on the Philadelphia Mainline is insane. — RD]

#10 Comment By Egypt Steve On January 9, 2019 @ 12:09 pm

Doesn’t look anything like a KKK robe — specifically, the hood is entirely different. Could have been a teachable moment, in which students could learn something about the reality of the Klan, rather than immediately going into panic/apology mode.

Is the Oreo kerfluffle about race, or about the crazy sugar content of the things?

#11 Comment By Sick In The Head As You Are On January 9, 2019 @ 12:20 pm

Dear Mister Amy Buckman.

As a gender nonconforming pronoun rejecting person I reserve the right to call you Mister and to declare to the world that in my eyes, you are a man.

Sir, I do not want to place you under any restriction as to how I decide which pronouns to use when addressing you. Fella, I do not recognize your power over me to force me to address you as a gender that I do not see in you. When I hear your name, I see a broad burly man with wide shoulders and a hairy chest. You cannot force me into some binary situation where I must call you would you would prefer to be called. For you to attempt to do sow would be a denial of my very existence and would be violence against my natural self, which prefers that you were a man. This you cannot take from me.


As Sick In The Head As You Are.

PS – Oreos are racist and you know it. There is a black part on top of the white part. You know what that means. Double stuffed Oreos simply represent the privileges that whites have. They always get twice as much as everyone else. Guess what? Thin mints are black and they are “thin” I think you can see the obvious implications.

#12 Comment By DRK On January 9, 2019 @ 12:25 pm

The idea that there would be a Klansman walking the halls of a high school on the Philadelphia Mainline is insane. — RD]

But the idea that a middle schooler would put on such an outfit and walk down the hall in it in order to creep out people is not insane at all. Kids that age can be such idiots. On the other hand, why in the world would a Dominican be walking down the corridor of a public school for pete’s sake? It seems far more unlikely.

Thin news day on the old outrage-o-meter? A school sends out a permission slip so that parents of kids with allergies have a head-up and a school gets ahead of a social media meme that there’s a Klansman walking around on the school campus. The world is ending I tell you. Good grief.

#13 Comment By Mark On January 9, 2019 @ 12:37 pm

This reminded me of the story from Indiana University a couple of years ago. [9].

Per the article, the Dominicans tweeted a handy pictorial guide for understanding the difference between Klan outfits and Dominican robes.

#14 Comment By ginger On January 9, 2019 @ 12:40 pm

So are the kids supposed to be disturbed because the robe looks like a KKK outfit or because it looks like there might be monks roving the halls?

#15 Comment By ginger On January 9, 2019 @ 12:45 pm

Why couldn’t the teacher just use double-stuffed vanilla Oreos? Or is that too scary nowadays, too?

Perhaps the teacher was concerned with ingredients some students might be allergic to and not with the overtones some might perceive as racist.

#16 Comment By Kirk On January 9, 2019 @ 1:09 pm

I am allergic to both wheat and chocolate. If I ate an Oreo cookie it would cause hives, at minimum, and at maximum, the closing of my throat.

These allergies emerged in my 30’s; otherwise many a classroom treat would have killed me off.

The health experts I read say that more people are becoming allergic*. Count me as one of the people who think an Oreo permission form is both appropriate and responsible.

* For example, see [10]

#17 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On January 9, 2019 @ 2:44 pm

Seriously? This invoked memories of the KKK? That robe looked nothing like a KKK robe. And why should the KKK get trademark rights to a color? I’m going to complain that the “Red State” theme is a communist plot!

#18 Comment By Christine Lehman On January 9, 2019 @ 5:10 pm

Wonder if they’ll send out a similar warning letter on May the Fourth? Those Jedi Knight costumes could be another source of panic in the streets!

#19 Comment By Andrew On January 9, 2019 @ 6:21 pm

I think the so called “monk” in the play is actually a Franciscan Friar. Generally, they wear brown. Yet again, ignorance of Catholicism creates trouble. 😉

#20 Comment By Ken’ichi On January 9, 2019 @ 9:24 pm

>>charles cosimano

The solution is simple. Take over the school board in the next election and fire those idiots.

Indeed. Perhaps study history and example of [11].

But yes, Right-wing in America should do less complaining online about things like this and more organizing together and doing something.

#21 Comment By EngineerScotty On January 10, 2019 @ 3:04 am

[NFR: You can always be counted on to defend indefensible crap like this. Dominicans wear white robes, you know. The idea that there would be a Klansman walking the halls of a high school on the Philadelphia Mainline is insane. — RD]

I’m not defending it per se, but think there ought to be some nuance here. Clearly, addressing the matter once a meme got loose on social media is appropriate. A statement of “this is a Dominican robe that the order has used for centuries, and has utterly nothing to do with the Ku Klux Klan” may well have sufficed, or not. Perhaps this is obnoxious virtue-signalling by the school administration, looking to demonstrate how much they oppose the Klan by banning anything remotely resembling a white bedsheet. Or perhaps it’s an act on the advice of lawyers; a lot of actions of this sort are simply the suits mitigating risk.

On the other hand, you sometimes overreact to anything you perceive as political correctness run amok. Even were I to stipulate the school acted unwisely, I think this is a tempest in a teapot (speaking of the Bard), not a horseman of the Apocalypse. You might differ, but I’m sure there are better things to get worked up about than this.

And as far as the cookies go–as someone who also has a kid who sits at the allergy table at lunch, this is reasonably prudent. Fortunately, my son’s allergy hasn’t (so far) been severe or life-threatening, but you never know when some hidden ingredient might trigger a reaction. Just last month he handed me a chocolate-covered cookie at a party and said he thought it smelled like peanuts; I took a bite and the insides were stuffed with peanut butter. Had he taken a bite of it, it would have probably meant a trip to the ER. (Fortunately, he actually has to consume nuts to have a reaction; for some kids, even holding that cookie or inhaling the scent could potentially kill them).

#22 Comment By Philly guy On January 10, 2019 @ 9:12 am

I work in Lower Merion.Am thankful to return to the city every night.

#23 Comment By Elijah On January 10, 2019 @ 10:07 am

I am the last person to defend hysterical kids’administrators, but there’s a REASON these people reacted as they did, viz. in a neighboring school district kids took a video wearing KKK-style masks, and sent out some pretty hateful letters.


#24 Comment By Warren On January 10, 2019 @ 11:34 am

People need to manage their own allergies, including kids. I remember going to school with people with allergies. They just avoided foods they knew would hurt them. There was no need to make a federal case out of it. These days I’ve heard of schools writing kids up for sharing lunches. It’s crazy. Kids who have lived with a health condition their whole life are capable of dealing with it themselves.

#25 Comment By Franklin Evans On January 10, 2019 @ 12:16 pm

I have a severe reaction to any food which contains curry. For a very long time, knowing that “curry” refers to a mix of ingredients, I just avoided it, but still occasionally had similar symptoms from foods not listed as having curry.

It took a chance tangent on a food search in Google to find the cause: turmeric. The plant has a natural fungus parasite, the spores of which become dormant during the drying of the plant. It can become active months later, and I’m one of the “lucky” few who reacts to the fungus.

My symptoms will remain undisclosed, but I can assure that they are not worse than painful and inconvenient. I will however point out that sometimes all it takes is some conversation and expanded awareness. For example, with many south Asians working in my building, the cafeteria offers their local cuisines every week, and the display for them recently began listing turmeric as an ingredient when the food is labeled for curry. I noticed the other day that turmeric is now listed on any prepared dish that has it.

#26 Comment By Dan On January 10, 2019 @ 5:04 pm

I still have no idea what “imagery” was offensive. So what if a monk is in a robe. Is it that it’s christian? I guess in this day and age Christianity is offensive to some people.

#27 Comment By DMoney On January 10, 2019 @ 5:10 pm

Wait wait wait. They thought it looked like a Klan member? I wouldn’t have thought of that in a million years.
The news story didn’t even mention that. I only got the clue from reading the comments.

The photo looks nothing like a klan thing.

#28 Comment By Lord Karth On January 11, 2019 @ 1:12 am


I’m allergic to marijuana. I start sneezing rapidly and the skin under my nails starts turning blue after a few seconds. (Truth—I found this out in high school in 1980.). What are people like me supposed to do ?

Your servant,

Lord Karth