In the wake of what’s become a national discussion about the freedom of speech in schools, Samantha Pawlucy and Lynette Gaymon both have seen their lives change dramatically.
They both also have been threatened — Pawlucy by fellow students, even friends, on Facebook and Twitter, Gaymon by strangers from all over the country over the phone.
Now it seems they both just want some peace for themselves, and for one another.
On Sept. 28, Pawlucy, 16, wore a pink pro-Romney-Ryan shirt to Port Richmond’s Charles Carroll High School’s “dress down day.” She said Gaymon, her teacher, mocked the shirt and embarrassed her. Gaymon was removed from teaching Pawlucy’s geometry class.
During a phone interview Oct. 8, Pawlucy told Star she always had considered Gaymon a friend as well as a teacher.
According to her father, Richard, Samantha Pawlucy is now leaving Charles Carroll High. Gaymon’s future at the school remains to be seen, but for now, she’s no longer teaching some of her students — students she called her “babies.”
Gaymon’s aunt, Cheryl, who declined to provide her last name, lives with Gaymon. She told Star in a phone interview Oct. 11 that her niece was trying to carry on as she normally would in the face of media attention and threats, but said, “It’s kind of impossible. She’s really having a hard time.”
“[They are] basically racial slurs,” Cheryl said of the calls to the house where Gaymon lives in the Lawndale section of Northeast Philadelphia. “It’s like ridiculous, it’s degrading things they’re saying. It’s going beyond a damn T-shirt.”
Pawlucy told Star on Oct. 8 that she had seen threatening statements against her online, with some comments suggesting that Pawlucy was lying “for attention” about what Gaymon said and did.
Pawlucy returned to school Tuesday, Oct. 9, alongside her parents and a crowd of supporters.
She left school, however, before she saw Gaymon, who issued an apology and a call for threats against Pawlucy to stop during an assembly that day.
Richard Pawlucy said his daughter left school because she felt “uncomfortable,” and Gaymon’s initial absence at the school exacerbated those feelings.
Pawlucy wasn’t present for the apology, but her stepmother, Kristine, was. Kristine Pawlucy declined over the phone Monday morning to comment, directing inquiries to the family’s lawyer, Wally Zimolong, who could not be reached by Star staff by press time.
Cheryl, Gaymon’s aunt, told Star she believes if Kristine Pawlucy attended the assemblies, then arrangements should have been made for Samantha to return to the school to hear Gaymon’s apology as well.
“Lynette expected Samantha to be there,” Cheryl said.
Cheryl said she believes her niece has done all she can to fix the situation.
“She’s human like anybody else. How many times can you apologize for the same thing? Let’s move on,” she said.
Cheryl said that Gaymon has received lots of support, however, from her students, who wore green T-shirts last Friday. Green is Gaymon’s favorite color.
Kristine Pawlucy told Star Oct. 8 that she did know that students were supporting Gaymon, but she felt it was because Gaymon told them Samantha had gotten Gaymon “in trouble,” so students were rallying around the teacher.
Pawlucy’s supporters include Mitt Romney himself, who reportedly called the Pawlucy house to see how Samantha was doing and to thank her for standing up for herself, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. She wasn’t home at the time.
Gaymon’s aunt said that Gaymon does joke with her students, and considered the T-shirt incident a joke like any other. Cheryl said Gaymon didn’t mention the incident when she returned home that day.
“Whatever transpired over the weekend, it sure took Lynette by surprise,” Cheryl said.
Gaymon did apologize first to Samantha Pawlucy and her parents in a private meeting on Oct. 1, Cheryl said. Kristine Pawlucy told Star she considered that apology insincere.
As for whether her niece will return to Charles Carroll High School, Cheryl said she fears for Gaymon’s safety in the area around the school.
“I wouldn’t want to return there,” she said.
A hearing as part of the school district’s investigation into the events was scheduled for last week. A family member at the house where Gaymon lives declined to comment Monday on the scheduled hearing as did district spokesman Fernando Gallard.
Asked if she believes Gaymon regrets the statements she made about Samantha Pawlucy’s T-shirt, Cheryl said, “She’s regretful that it has turned into such a madness.”
“She feels bad for Samantha more so than she feels for herself,” she added.
Samantha Pawlucy told Star on Oct. 8 that she didn’t want Gaymon to be her teacher anymore, but, “I don’t want her to be threatened, either.”
It was reported that in the letter Gaymon read at the assembly, she stated, “This is a very rough time for Sam, and she needs that support from you now more than ever.”
Star Managing Editor Mikala Jamison can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-354-3113.