Philadelphia student mocked over Romney T-shirt says she fears for her safety

Samantha Pawlucy, with her parents, Kristine and Richard, says she has heard rumors of threats to her safety over her claims about a teacher's behavior.
Samantha Pawlucy, with her parents, Kristine and Richard, says she has heard rumors of threats to her safety over her claims about a teacher's behavior. (STEVEN M. FALK/ Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 06, 2012

Samantha Pawlucy said she was afraid to return to Charles Carroll High School after complaining that a teacher mocked her for wearing a Romney/Ryan T-shirt on dress-down day.

The sophomore said classmates, former friends, and even students from other schools had issued threats over what they saw as lies and misinterpretation. That's what's she heard from other students and read on Facebook, Pawlucy said.

"I don't want to go to school and get jumped," Pawlucy, who said she has a second-degree black belt in tae kwon do, said at her home in Port Richmond on Thursday evening. "I'm just really scared to go back to school."

The incident went viral after Pawlucy and her parents began publicizing her claim that Lynette Gaymon, her geometry teacher, had publicly humiliated her over the T-shirt.

Pawlucy was wearing the pink T-shirt on dress-down day last Friday when, she said, Gaymon began making fun of her. An adult aide waved a marker as though to draw an X on the shirt, Pawlucy said.

She also said Gaymon called the school "Democratic," and said Pawlucy's wearing the Romney shirt was analogous to Gaymon, who is black, wearing a KKK shirt.

Gaymon could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers declined to comment.

The Pawlucys said they planned to file a formal complaint with the district Friday. Meanwhile, a district investigator spoke to Pawlucy's mother, Kristine, on Thursday. Gaymon is still at the school, but is not teaching Pawlucy's geometry class, said Fernando Gallard, a spokesman for the School District of Philadelphia.

As students streamed out of the school Thursday afternoon, several groups of youths shouted their support for Gaymon, calling her a "great teacher," "really fun," and "nothing like that story."

They said Gaymon jokes around with her students, but never out of malice.

Samantha Pawlucy said that even as a joke, Gaymon's behavior was wrong, and brought attention and humiliation upon her.

The incident has triggered a barrage of media interviews, which have been difficult, she said.

More important, she said, she was scared for her safety. She said friends had told her groups of students had discussed attacking her.

The school has been told of the threats and rumored attacks, Kristine Pawlucy said. She said she was taking them seriously and planned to keep her daughter out of school until Tuesday.

Gallard said the district took "situations like this very seriously" and would work with police from the district and city to investigate the alleged threats.

The Pawlucys said they had not received any apology from the school or district. Gaymon apologized to the family during a meeting Monday, but they questioned her sincerity.

"She never once asked about Sam. It was all about her, her, her," Kristine Pawlucy said.

The family quoted Gaymon as saying that she had been joking and that Samantha should have known that.

Kristine Pawlucy said the family was focused now on the threats, and urged Gaymon to ask students to back down.

Samantha Pawlucy said she would wear the T-shirt again given the chance.

The experience has been eye-opening, and she's learned a lesson, she said: "To stand up for myself. Don't let people tell me that what I'm doing is wrong."


Contact Jonathan Lai at 215-854-2771, jlai@philly.com, or follow on Twitter @elaijuh.

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