Parents of Phila. student mocked for Romney T-shirt file suit

Samantha Pawlucy of Philadelphia with her Romney shirt. Her parents have sued the teacher and School District.
Samantha Pawlucy of Philadelphia with her Romney shirt. Her parents have sued the teacher and School District. (SHARON GEKOSKI-KIMMEL / File Photograph)
Posted: December 23, 2012

The parents of the Charles Carroll High School student ridiculed and told by her teacher to remove a T-shirt supporting Mitt Romney in this year's presidential campaign sued the teacher and the School District on Friday, claiming the act violated the girl's civil rights.

Filed in federal court in Philadelphia, the suit says the district ignored Samantha Pawlucy's right to free speech, let other students threaten and harass her and subjected her "to emotional distress, simply because she exercised her First Amendment rights."

Philadelphia School District spokesman Fernando Gallard said the district would not comment on the lawsuit.

Pawlucy, a 16-year-old sophomore from Port Richmond, drew national headlines from the furor that erupted when she wore a pink Romney-Ryan shirt during a dress-down day in September.

According to the lawsuit, Pawlucy had worn the shirt all day when she walked into geometry teacher Lynette Gaymon's classroom.

The teacher allegedly told the teen that Carroll was a "Democratic" school and that her shirt was akin to one sporting a logo for the Ku Klux Klan. She ordered Pawlucy to remove the shirt, then enlisted an aide, who tried to draw an X through the candidates' names.

Pawlucy's parents complained to school officials and the story went viral. Gaymon later publicly apologized to the girl.

Pawlucy asserts that she endured ongoing harassment and threats and was unable to return to the school.

Her parents, Richard and Kristine, later said they hoped to transfer their daughter to a private school. The family's lawyer, Walter S. Zimolong, said Friday he was unsure where Pawlucy was enrolled.

The lawsuit says the district's "de facto prohibition" on students wearing pro-Romney T-shirts violated Pawlucy's right to free speech. It also says Gaymon defamed Pawlucy by implying the teen "was a racist and Ku Klux Klan sympathizer."

Beyond damages, they are asking that a judge enjoin the district "to make sure they don't engage in that activity again," Zimolong said.

Gaymon could not be reached for comment Friday.


Contact John P. Martin at 215-925-2649, at jmartin@phillynews.com, or @JPMartinInky on Twitter.

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