Northeast Times

Girl mocked for Romney shirt returns to school

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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.” ••

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