The family of a 16-year-old Philadelphia teenager who charges that her geometry teacher mocked her for wearing a Mitt Romney t-shirt has sued both the teacher and the school district for violating her First Amendment rights.
The teacher, Lynette Gaymon, allegedly told Samantha Pawlucy to “get out of this class” and pointed to the door when she entered math class at Charles Carroll High School in September, FOX 29 reported. Gaymon then tried to mark the shirt with a red marker.
Gaymon also said the pink “Romney-Ryan” shirt the high schooler wore to school was akin to the garb Ku Klux Klan members wear, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.
When the incident occurred, Pawlucy’s parents called for the teacher to be fired immediately.
“This is Philadelphia, the birthplace of freedom and things like that, but we have schools that want to take away her freedom,” the girl’s father said.
The federal lawsuit, filed last week, alleges that the defendants ignored Pawlucy’s First Amendment free speech right. The incident demonstrated a “de facto prohibition” on students wearing clothing that endorsed the Republican presidential candidate, the suit maintains, according to the Inquirer.
The suit seeks damages for emotional distress because the teacher defamed Pawlucy by suggesting that she was a racist and because the district allowed students who disagreed with Pawlucy’s political views to harass her.
A representative for the school district wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit, the Inquirer notes.
On Oct. 10, Pawlucy was greeted by a throng of supporters when she returned to school.
Not everyone championed her cause, however. Pawlucy told the Inquirer that the furor caused her to lose friends. She also received threats via Facebook.
Pawlucy called herself resilient through it all. ”(I’ve learned) to stand up for myself,” the teen said, according to the Daily Mail. “Don’t let people tell me that what I’m doing is wrong.”
At the request of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers as well as school officials, Gaymon issued an apology to Pawlucy after the incident.
Gaymon’s mea culpa said she was “very sorry for all of the chaos and negative attention that has surrounded our school in the past couple of weeks,” according to the Daily Mail. She also suggested that she had intended her KKK comparison to be “light and humorous.”
“Let’s get back to being the school where we care for each other and where we show up for school on time, in uniform and ready to work!” Gaymon proposed in the closing paragraph of her statement.
Pawlucy reportedly chose to back Romney for president because of his views on abortion. Her parents, Richard and Kristine, also supported Romney.
During the campaign, Romney called the Pawlucy family to express his gratitude for their support in the face of criticism.
Richard and Kristine Pawlucy had said their daughter would transfer to another school after the incident. Walter S. Zimolong, the attorney for the family, told the Inquirer he did not know where the girl is currently enrolled.