The family of a Port Richmond teenager who was allegedly mocked by a teacher for wearing a pro-Mitt Romney T-shirt is now suing the Philadelphia School district over the incident.
It started in a Port Richmond high school with a pink “Romney-Ryan” T-shirt. Now it may be ending in federal court.
The family of Samantha Pawlucy filed a federal lawsuit in late December against the Philadelphia School District and former Charles Carroll High School geometry teacher Lynette Gaymon, claiming that the civil rights of Pawlucy, a 16-year-old tenth-grade student, were violated on September 28 when Gaymon ridiculed a pink Mitt Romney T-shirt Pawlucy was wearing during a school “dress-down” day.
Gaymon, who is black, reportedly told Pawlucy that her wearing a Romney-Ryan shirt would be like Gaymon wearing a Ku Klux Klan shirt.
The lawsuit states that Pawlucy was exposed to emotional distress in front of classmates because she exercised her First Amendment rights.
Pawlucy family attorney Wally S. Zimolong declined to comment on the lawsuit Friday afternoon.
“Everything we have to say is in the lawsuit,” Zimolong said.
He also declined to comment on where Samantha is now going to school, citing attorney-client confidentiality. Pawlucy and her siblings all withdrew from Philadelphia public schools after the incident became national news during last year’s election season.
According to the lawsuit, during class on Sept. 28, Gaymon ordered Pawlucy to remove the shirt, and then asked an adult teacher’s aide to help, who allegedly tried to draw an X through the “Romney-Ryan” logo.
The lawsuit states that Gaymon’s comments implied that Pawlucy was racist and a KKK sympathizer. It also states that the school’s “de facto prohibition” on students wearing pro-Romney T-shirts in Philadelphia schools is a violation of the First Amendment.
The lawsuit asks for damages and a judicial order that the school district does not engage in this activity again.
Gaymon later publically apologized to Pawlucy at a school assembly, but that apology was not witnessed by Pawlucy – who, on her first day back at school after the incident, was unable to stay for the entire day due to claimed emotional distress.
Pawlucy endured online insults from classmates related to the incident, she told Star, including accusations that she “was lying for attention.”
Gaymon’s aunt, who wished to be identified only as Cheryl, told Star after the incident that Gaymon was receiving threats and insulting messages including racial slurs, but that “she feels bad for Samantha more so than for herself.”
The Pawlucy family has stated that they will no longer speak with the media.
Philadelphia School District spokesman Fernando Gallard did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit or whether Gaymon is still teaching at Charles Carroll.
Reporter Sam Newhouse can be reached at 215-354-3124 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.