A uniform-free "dress-down" day at Charles Carroll High School in Port Richmond turned into a public dressing down for a student who chose to wear a pink T-shirt supporting Mitt Romney for president.
Samantha Pawlucy, a sophomore at Carroll, said her geometry teacher publicly humiliated her Friday by asking why she was wearing a Romney/Ryan T-shirt and going into the hallway to urge other teachers and students to mock her.
"I was really embarrassed and shocked. I didn't think she'd go in the hallway and scream to everyone," Pawlucy said. "It wasn't scary, but it felt weird."
Pawlucy said she decided to wear the shirt after researching the candidate and President Obama and concluding that she was a Romney supporter. Her father, Richard, said she was especially interested in Romney's opposition to late-term abortion.
He said he recently registered to vote as an independent but was not involved in the Romney campaign.
Samantha Pawlucy said that after going into the hall, her teacher called into the classroom a nonteaching assistant who tried to write on the T-shirt with a marker. She allegedly told the teen to remove her shirt and said she would be given another.
Pawlucy said her teacher told her that Carroll was a "Democratic school" and that wearing a Republican shirt was akin to the teacher, who is black, wearing a KKK shirt.
The teacher could not be reached for comment. Fernando Gallard, spokesman for the School District of Philadelphia, said an investigation was ongoing. He said the student had the right to wear the T-shirt.
Samantha Pawlucy said she felt publicly humiliated by her teacher and was initially unsure how to respond.
"I just laughed because I was nervous," she said.
Her father said the girl was visibly upset when she returned home but at first did not want to tell her story for fear of retaliation from the school - suspension, being moved out of the class, or expulsion.
She said she also felt shunned by classmates because she reported the incident to the principal.
"I have some friends that won't talk to me anymore because of it," she said. "Because I told the principal what happened . . . they're mad at me."
Her parents met Monday with Joyce Hoag, the principal. Richard Pawlucy said that during the meeting, the teacher insisted she had been joking, then stormed out and left the school. He said he was told he could file an official complaint with the district, which he said he planned to do Thursday. He said he was also given the option of letting the principal handle the incident, with the teacher getting some form of training.
Gallard declined to identify the parties or confirm any details of the meeting. He said the investigation began "with the simple action of the parent calling the principal and complaining." An official complaint is required for the investigation to continue, he said.
When Samantha Pawlucy went back to her geometry class Tuesday, she said, she was shocked to find the teacher there. She claimed the teacher told the students she could no longer joke with them because a student had gotten her in trouble.
The teen said she was so upset by the teacher's comments that she left the classroom and hid in the bathroom until the end of class.
The roster was later rearranged so that the teacher remains in the school but is not teaching Pawlucy's class, the girl's father said. Gallard confirmed that the teacher was still teaching during the investigation but was no longer teaching that class.
The Pawlucy family has another student in the school, a freshman who also wore a Romney shirt and who also reported being belittled by classmates.
Richard Pawlucy said that after filing the complaint, he was not sure he would willingly work with the school again.
"I'm not sure what we're going to do from this point," he said. "I don't know if I should meet with the school again. I don't really think the principal is going to help us on this."
Gallard said that after the official complaint is received, the district would conduct a series of interviews over the next days, eventually determining whether there is sufficient evidence to move forward with disciplinary action.
Pawlucy was within her rights to wear the shirt on a "dress-down" day when nonuniform clothing "within reason" is permitted, Gallard said. He said he had not encountered a situation like this in 10 years as a district spokesman.
"It's a constitutional right. It's freedom of speech," he said.
A spokesman for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers declined to comment.