Philly student's Romney T-shirt likened to KKK sheet

Samantha Pawlucy, 16, of Port Richmond, says she was asked to leave geometry class at Charles Carroll High School in Philadelphia, because she was wearing this Romney T-shirt .( SHARON GEKOSKI-KIMMEL / Staff Photographer
Samantha Pawlucy, 16, of Port Richmond, says she was asked to leave geometry class at Charles Carroll High School in Philadelphia, because she was wearing this Romney T-shirt .( SHARON GEKOSKI-KIMMEL / Staff Photographer
Posted: October 04, 2012

A uniform-free “dress-down” day at Charles Carroll High School in Port Richmond turned into a public dressing down for a student who chose to wear a pink T-shirt supporting Mitt Romney for president.

Samantha Pawlucy, a sophomore at Carroll High, said her geometry teacher publicly humiliated her by asking why she was wearing a Romney/Ryan T-shirt and going into the hallway to urge other teachers and students to mock her.

“I was really embarrassed and shocked. I didn’t think she’d go in the hallway and scream to everyone,” Pawlucy said. “It wasn’t scary, but it felt weird.”

Pawlucy said she decided to wear the shirt after researching the candidate and President Obama and concluding that she’s a Romney supporter. Her father, Richard Pawlucy, said she was especially interested in Romney’s opposition to partial-birth abortion.

He said he recently registered to vote as an independent but was not involved in the Romney campaign.

Samantha Pawlucy The teacher then allegedly called a non-teaching assistant into the room who tried to write on the t-shirt with a marker. She allegedly told to remove her shirt and she would be given another one.

During the incident, Samantha Pawlucy said the teacher told her that Carroll High is a “Democratic school” and wearing a Republican shirt is akin to the teacher, who is black, wearing a KKK shirt.

The teacher could not be reached for comment. Fernando Gallard, district spokesman said an investigation is ongoing. He said the student had the right to wear the t-shirt.

Samantha Pawlucy said she felt publicly humiliated by her teacher and was initially unsure how to respond.

“I just laughed because I was nervous,” she said.

Her father said she was visibly upset when she returned home, but at first did not want to tell her story, for fear of retaliation from the school — suspension, being moved out of the class, or expulsion.

The student said she also felt shunned by classmates because she reported the incident to the principal.

“I have some friends that won’t talk to me anymore because of it,” she said. “Because I told the principal what happened…they’re mad at me.”

The parents met on Monday with Joyce Hoag, the school principal. Richard Pawlucy said that during the meeting the teacher insisted she had been joking. She stormed out and left the school. He said he was told he could file an official complaint with the district which he plans to do on Thursday. He said he was also given the option of letting the principal handle the incident with the teacher getting some form of training.

Gallard declined to identify the parties or confirm any details of the meeting. He said the investigation began “with the simple action of the parent calling the principal and complaining.” For the investigation to continue, it requires an official complaint, he said.

When Samantha Pawlucy went back to her geometry class Tuesday, she said, she was shocked to find her teacher in class. She claimed the teacher told the class that she can no longer joke around with the class because a student had gotten her in trouble.

The teen said she was so upset by the teachers’ comments that she left the classroom and hid in the bathroom until the end of the class.

The roster was later rearranged so that the teacher remains in the school, but is not teaching Pawlucy’s class, her father said. Gallard confirmed that the teacher continues to teach during the investigation but is no longer teaching that class.

The Pawlucy family has another student in the school, a freshman who also wore a Romney shirt, and was belittled by classmates.

Richard Pawlucy said that after filing the complaint, he’s not sure he will willingly work with the school again.

“I'm not sure what we're gonna do from this point,” he said, “I don't know if I should meet with the school again. I don't really think the principal is gonna help us on this.”

After the official complaint is received, Gallard said, the district will conduct a series of interviews over the next days, eventually determining whether there is sufficient evidence to move forward with disciplinary action.

Pawlucy was within her rights to wear the shirt, Gallard said, on a “dress-down” day where non-uniform clothing “within reason” is permitted. He said he hasn’t encountered a situation like this in ten years of working as a spokesman for the district.

“It’s a Constitutional right. It’s freedom of speech,” Gallard said.

A spokesman for the teachers’ union, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, declined to comment.

Contact Jonathan Lai at 215-854-5151, jlai@philly.com, or on Twitter @elaijuh.

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