'Romney Girl' mess: Lessons for Philadelphia

Posted: October 19, 2012

MY AUG. 22 Daily News column, "Election 2012: A Time to Teach Kids, Not Indoctrinate Them," was an attempt to talk about ways the presidential election could be used to engage students as citizens while cautioning against teachers indoctrinating kids as we saw in the 2008 election cycle. Who would have thought that Philadelphia and Charles Carroll High School would be the epicenter of exactly what I warned about?

I've been working with Samantha Pawlucy, the Carroll sophomore harassed by her teacher for wearing a Romney/Ryan T-shirt to school on a "dress-down" day. As a result of talking with her and her family, I think I've developed a good insight into exactly what happened throughout the whole debacle and what we've learned from it.

The first thing we've learned is the politicians of both parties who prattle on about Philadelphia being the cradle of free speech and the Constitution did not embrace and support the Pawlucys. The only politicians who showed up at a rally that I helped to organize to support Samantha were Republican state Rep. John Taylor and City Councilman Mark Squilla, a Democrat. Mayor Nutter worked behind the scenes but never publicly apologized to Samantha for the treatment she received.

We learned that the Republicans trying to create a viable Republican Party seized upon this wrong to support Samantha. Led by Kevin Kelly, they organized the rally of support and got the Pawlucys a top-flight lawyer. They connected the dots and argued this is not an isolated incident but reflective of the mindset in Philadelphia.

Based on my conversations with the Pawlucys' lawyer, Wally Zimolong, we learned that the new Philadelphia public school superintendent, William Hite, was doing a good job of getting the teacher, Lynette Gaymon, to apologize to Samantha at a school assembly. He was involved in getting the teacher to report to school on a day that she had taken as a personal day.

However, we have also learned that Hite's work was thwarted by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers union and its president, Jerry Jordan. I believe the union scuttled the agreement that would have gotten the proper apology and kept Samantha in her school. I'm sure union officials are thinking this will all blow over and little, if anything, will happen to the teacher.

I hope that doesn't happen because I think we've learned that the media correctly saw this as a story that people cared about and the coverage and commentary were appropriate.

We also learned that the veterans community will rally when one of their own is ridiculed and called obscenities for his standing with Samantha's parents when they went to the school to file their formal complaint. I spoke with the former Marine, who talked of kids yelling obscenities at him from inside the school and his feeling that the school would be a hostile environment for Samantha. I wonder if any students were punished for vulgar and disrespectful behavior.

Probably the biggest takeaway from these last few weeks and the multiple incidents is that a city and a school district drunk on repeated pledges to celebrate diversity nevertheless do not welcome, will not protect and will not tolerate diversity of thought. The diversity bean-counters can certainly document and praise the numbers of people broken down by race, gender, age, sexual orientation and a million other P.C. categories, but Republicans, and particularly conservatives, are a minority not worthy of toleration. Lynette Gaymon's comment to Samantha that "this is a Democratic school" beautifully captures the mindset.

In a previous column, I wrote of an event that I conducted with Gov. Corbett at the Philadelphia Museum of Art that was tarnished by people who believe they have a civil right to shout down Republicans in Philadelphia. They were clearly supported in this by the inactions of the Philadelphia police.

In order to address some the issues these incidents highlighted, I like the suggestion of the Daily News editorial board to hold presidential debates at the Charles Carroll school and other Philadelphia public-school venues. I'd love to see students attending debates in which designated students acted as Obama and Romney surrogates and talk about what each candidate's election would mean for the future of young people.

Finally, we learned that there are a lot of generous people who will fund Samantha's tuition if she decides to go to a Catholic or other private school. I've been contacted by many who are eager to help.

The warning issued in my Aug. 22 column still stands. People will not forget what was revealed and reaffirmed in all this. I'm sure the rest of Pennsylvania and their representatives were taking mental notes.

Teacher-turned-talk show host Dom Giordano is heard weekdays on WPHT 1210-AM Radio. Contact Dom at www.domgiordano.com.

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