A crowd of more than 50 veterans and freedom-of-speech supporters turned out under rainy skies outside Charles Carroll High School in Port Richmond on Tuesday morning to show support for a girl who was reportedly taunted by a teacher for wearing a pro-Mitt Romney T-shirt.
Samantha Pawlucy, 16, was cheered by vets carrying American flags and signs bearing messages such as, “Samantha: Honorary Vet,” and, “We Support You Samantha,” as she arrived at her school for classes. Her father and stepmother, Richard and Kristine Pawlucy, accompanied her to school.
The teenager was thrust into the center of controversy after being singled out by geometry teacher Lynette Gaymon, who compared Samantha wearing a Romney T-shirt to the teacher, who is black, “wearing a KKK shirt.” Gaymon reportedly urged other students to join in mocking the teen.
Before entering the school for the first time since the incident occurred on Sept. 28, Samantha read the preamble to the U.S. Constitution and the text of the First Amendment to an enthusiastic crowd.
Dave Kralle, a Republican candidate for the Pennsylvania House, has called for Gaymon to be fired, and urged supporters to attend the rally.
Samantha, who works as a martial arts instructor and aspires to become a veterinarian, decided to wear a pink shirt bearing the Romney-Ryan campaign logo to school when Carroll, at 2700 E. Auburn St., was having a “dress down” day.
Samantha said she expected, if anything, that some students might react to the shirt if they didn’t share her political views.
What she didn’t expect, though, was a reaction from her teacher that’s stimulated a divisive nationwide free speech issue.
The ensuing media whirlwind and a host of interviews have all left Samantha, in her own words, simply “tired.” She said, though, that she’s trying to keep her chin up.
“I’m doing OK,” she said in a phone interview Monday. “My parents give me support.”
On that Friday, Samantha said, Gaymon began making fun of her upon seeing the Romney-Ryan shirt. She said Gaymon called the school “Democratic.”
An adult teacher’s aide also waved a marker as if to draw an “X” on the shirt, Samantha said. Gaymon, she said, also went into the hallway to encourage other students and teachers to mock her.
Kristine Pawlucy said in a meeting Oct. 1, Gaymon issued what the Pawlucys called an insincere apology, with Gaymon saying she had been joking.
Samantha said she’s seen on Facebook and heard from others that classmates and friends have issued threats toward her, with some students asking around about where she lives.
“They think I’m lying for attention,” she said, adding that some of her friends are acting two-faced — she said they will post publicly on Facebook that they don’t support her, and then send her personal messages that they do.
Philadelphia School District spokesman Fernando Gallard confirmed in a phone interview Friday that Gaymon is no longer teaching the geometry class, but is still teaching at the school.
Mayor Nutter also apologized to the family at their home on Sunday.
Samantha said given the chance she would wear the shirt again, and that she believes other students in her school, or any schools, should have the right to express their views in their clothing.
“People should wear whatever they want,” she said. “It’s freedom of speech.” ••EndFragment