Teen tweeter won't apologize to Brownback, rightly so
The Kansas City Star
Teen tweeter Emma Sullivan of Shawnee Mission East didn’t apologize to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, which was the right move.
Instead, on Monday, Brownback apologized. Again, the right move.
Sullivan said Sunday she won’t apologize, and on Monday the school district also said there’s no need for Sullivan to follow through with an initial demand from her principal that she apologize to Brownback.
Sullivan’s case has brought yet another batch of negative attention to backwards-looking Kansas, where Brownback’s office whined last week about a tweet put out by Sullivan: “Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot.”
In reaction, her principal initially said he wanted her to apologize for speaking her opinion (which, by the way, she really didn’t personally express to the governor).
Sullivan last week had been leaning toward making the apology. But she won’t now, after receiving national support from lots of people to ignore the pressure from her principal and the heavy-handed governor’s office.
On Monday, the Shawnee Mission School District appeared to be in full damage control mode, returning from Thanksgiving break.
“The district acknowledges a student’s right to freedom of speech and expression is constitutionally protected,” the district’s statement said.
“The district has not censored Miss Sullivan nor infringed upon her freedom of speech. She is not required to write a letter of apology to the governor. Whether and to whom any apologies are issued will be left to the individuals involved.”
Shortly after that statement came out, Brownback’s office released one. It said, in part:
“My staff over-reacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize. Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms.”
Sullivan’s case has become one of those free-speech touchstones the country is always getting enmeshed in.
In this case, the high school senior spoke her mind and the governor’s office wanted her punished for doing so.
Note to disbelievers: That’s why Brownback’s people reported the tweet to the group that sponsored Sullivan’s trip to Topeka, to make sure she got punished for doing so. Any other reading of the situation ignores reality. And it also ignores the byzantine world of politics, in Brownback’s office and in offices of many other politicians across the nation.
Sure Sullivan looked fairly silly for making the tweet. And that’s what it really was: A prank by a high schooler.
Yet this prank got Gov. Brownback’s staff to take a stand that it knew would play well with his supporters. They may, however, have underestimated just how petty and foolish this stand on a silly tweet makes Brownback look.