News

Kansas high school disciplines student for tweet critical of governor

Pin it

Eighteen-year-old Emma Sullivan, a senior at Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, Kansas, has found herself embroiled in the news, thanks to a slow Thanksgiving news cycle. It seems Emma was recently part of a field trip to the Capitol in Topeka, as part of a Kansas Youth in Government program. While Governor Sam Brownback was addressing the group, Sullivan posted a tweet that read: "Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot"

As it turns out, Sullivan didn't actually make those "mean comments" she tweeted about, apparently "just joking with friends," but did say "I don't agree with a majority of the things that he is trying to pass. I believe that it is my right to state my opinion." It's interesting that the staff of the Republican Brownback — who's pro-life, anti-gay rights, and disbelieves in macroevolution — would flag a pretty innocuous tweet and contact the girl's school complaining about it. 

As a result, Sullivan was called to the principal's office and ordered to apologize to the governor. The principal, Karl R. Krawitz, said "This is not about political views since none were given in the tweet — it's about being respectful with a public official whether we agree or disagree with their viewpoints." Though public-school students don't have unlimited free-speech rights, demanding that Sullivan write a letter of apology for her comment would seem to be a violation of her First Amendment rights, unless it was disruptive to the school's learning environment. Sullivan now says that she won't apologize, and her number of Twitter followers has grown from sixty to more than 3,000.