Northeast Times

In Romney T-shirt uproar, both sides call for threats to stop

Sam­antha Pawlucy told Star last week she didn’t want her teach­er, Lynette Gay­mon, to be threatened. Now Gay­mon has asked the same for her former stu­dent, who is re­portedly not re­turn­ing to Charles Car­roll High.

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 mjam­is­on@bsmphilly.com or 215-354-3113.

You can reach at mjamison@bsmphilly.com.

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