Samantha Pawlucy, mocked for Romney shirt, returns to school Tuesday

The Port Rich­mond sopho­more has been the fo­cus of heavy me­dia at­ten­tion since last week, when her teach­er re­portedly mocked her for wear­ing a pro-Mitt Rom­ney T-shirt to school. Pawlucy re­turned to class today, with sup­port­ers ral­ly­ing around her.

Ed. note: See im­age gal­lery at right, and look for an in­ter­view with Sam­antha Pawlucy in Wed­nes­day’s Star.

A crowd of over 50 vet­er­ans and free­dom of speech sup­port­ers gathered un­der rainy skies out­side Charles Car­roll High School Tues­day to show sup­port for Port Rich­mond’s Sam­antha Pawlucy, who was re­portedly taunted by a teach­er for wear­ing a pro-Mitt Rom­ney T-shirt to school.

Sopho­more 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 high school for classes.

The teen­ager be­came a free­dom of speech icon al­most overnight after be­ing singled out by her geo­metry teach­er, Lynette Gay­mon, when Pawlucy wore the T-shirt to the school’s “dress down day” Sept. 28. Gay­mon, who is black, re­portedly said Pawlucy’s wear­ing of the shirt was the same as Gay­mon wear­ing a Ku Klux Klan shirt, and called the school “Demo­crat­ic.”

Gay­mon could not be reached for com­ment.

On Tues­day, Pawlucy read the pre­amble to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion and the text of the First Amend­ment to an en­thu­si­ast­ic crowd.

“We wanted to come here and form a wall of flags to sup­port Sam­antha,” said Rich Dav­is, who or­gan­ized sup­port for this rally from his vet­er­ans group, the Amer­ic­an Sheep­dogs. “She’s a young kid, and she’s had a rough time. We just want to make her feel bet­ter about what she’s gone through.”

Sup­port­ers of Sam­antha came from around the Phil­adelphia area, and many said they were not here to sup­port Mitt Rom­ney, but to de­fend Sam­antha’s right to wear a Mitt Rom­ney shirt.

“Today is about free speech,” said Janet O’Neill, of Bucks County. “If Sam­antha had a shirt on that said Obama and people came after her, I’d still be here to de­fend her right to speech.”

Re­pub­lic­an can­did­ate for the Pennsylvania House, Dave Kralle, has called for Gay­mon to be fired, and urged sup­port­ers to at­tend this rally.

“I am here for Rom­ney too,” said Den­nis Hef­fernan, of Ol­ney, who served in the U.S. Army’s trans­port­a­tion de­part­ment in the 1960s, “But this is about free speech. You can wear any shirt you want.”

ldquo;I don’t think they would have come down so hard on her [if she wore an Obama shirt],” said Elaine Couch, of May­fair. “This is a Demo­crat­ic town. Any­thing that says R-R [Rom­ney-Ry­an] is totally un­ac­cept­able.”

“It’s ter­rible, what happened to her,” said Trudy Beck­shi, 77, of New­town. “These vets put on a uni­form so she could have free speech. Teach­ers should be sup­port­ing stu­dents, not in­tim­id­at­ing them.”

Sam­antha told Star Monday that she was very nervous about re­turn­ing to school after re­ceiv­ing threats to her phys­ic­al well­being. She was also es­cor­ted to school by her fath­er Richard Pawlucy and step­moth­er Kristine Pawlucy.

“I’m here in sup­port of Sam­antha and free speech,” said Skye Mar­shall, 25, who traveled for 45 minutes from Up­per Darby to par­ti­cip­ate in the rally. “It doesn’t mat­ter what can­did­ate she sup­ports, the school should pro­tect stu­dents.

State Rep. John Taylor and his of­fice have been in con­tact with Pawlucy.

Taylor said he is most con­cerned about the girl’s safety, adding that she should not have been singled out for ri­dicule. His of­fice has been in con­tact with the school dis­trict’s safe schools ad­voc­ate, School Re­form Com­mis­sion chair­man Pedro Ramos and Su­per­in­tend­ent Wil­li­am Hite. The law­maker blames Car­roll of­fi­cials for let­ting the situ­ation get out of con­trol.

“They’ve mis­handled this from minute one,” he said. “That could have been a teach­ing mo­ment.”

Wil­li­am Dun­bar, a Port Rich­mond res­id­ent and Taylor’s Demo­crat­ic op­pon­ent, said the teach­er could have used the epis­ode to con­duct a mock de­bate of is­sues.

“The win­dow was open to teach those young im­pres­sion­able stu­dents about free­dom of speech,” he said.

 Re­port­er Sam Ne­w­house can be reached at 215-354-3113 or at sne­w­

Re­port­er Tom War­ing con­trib­uted to this art­icle. He can be reached at 215-354-3034 or at twar­

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