The "teachable moment" should be directed to adults, not just in Port Richmond or the city, but everywhere.
The T-shirt flap and the resulting hostility that had a high-school student afraid to return to school because of obscenities hurled at her parents and rumors that students were going to attack her is a sickening indictment of an uncivilized society that has become increasingly intolerant of differences of opinions, political outlooks, religious beliefs and beyond.
Whether it takes the form of blatant questioning of, say, the current president's love of God, country, or his supposed lack of a birth certificate, or nasty commentaries on non-Christians, or distorted political ads with both sides accusing the other of lies and worse, or even Rush Limabugh calling a Georgetown legal student a slut and a whore for speaking out about birth control, the rise of the political echo chamber that has replaced useful and thoughtful debate that is grounded in respect is the real culprit.
It doesn't much matter which side is wielding the hatred, although this time it was presumably Democratic-leaning students encouraged by their teacher.
But really, where did those students learn these lessons in intolerance? They learned them from the adults around them.
They learned their intolerance from us.
Having witnessed and become increasingly dismayed over the lack of civility, we can't say we're surprised that a new generation of haters has been spawned.
So let's talk teachable moments: Kids, it's up to you to teach adults - including your teachers - that we can be better. Set an example for a country that must learn how to work together or perish.
Remind the adults around you that free speech is not just the ability to voice your own views, but must also guide how you listen to others' views.
Meanwhile, either the Charles Carroll High School or the School District of Philadelphia would do well to hold a political debate for students and for adults.
Free speech is certainly at the center of the Pawlucy T-shirt incident.
To that end, students might also want to check out a handy "student-rights handbook" that details what their rights are. Find it at aclupa.org/education/students rightshandbook. (And please, ACLU haters, hold your powder. If you have another source that details student's civil rights, we'll publish that, too.)
We must have free speech. But we also must have more civil, useful, respectful speech. Kids, we're counting on you to show us the way.