|Emma Sullivan [l] and Governor Sam Brownback [r]|
They say you gotta have a thick skin if you wanna be in politics, but apparently Kansas governor, Sam Brownback didn't get the memo.
See last week Shawnee Mission East High School senior, Emma Sullivan, was among a group of students at the Statehouse for a Youth in Government program. And as Brownback, a Republican, was addressing the group, Sullivan, who says she is a Democrat and who recently registered to vote, tweeted from her cellphone, “Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot.”
Kinda funny. Didn't happen. Oh, not the Tweet, that's real, but Emma Sullivan never told Brownback he sucked, though she could have, and had she, well, then all this brouhaha might have seemed sort of appropriate.
Brownback’s staff, which monitors social media like Facebook and Twitter, saw Sullivan's Tweet and complained about it, and complained about it, and complained about it. In fact, Brownback’s spokeswoman, Sherriene Jones-Sontag, said: “It was important for the organization to be aware of the comments their students were making. It’s also important for students to recognize the power of social media, how lasting it is. It is on the Internet.”
All that complaining, foot-stomping, neck-snapping, whining and kvetching led to a trip to the principal’s office for Sullivan, who was scolded and told to write letters of apology. For her opinion. Sullivan was told by the school principal, Karl Krawitz, that she had embarrassed her school and district, and needed to write the letter of apology.
At first, Sullivan said she would apologize but said she wasn't sorry. Then she refused to apologize, at which point the principal foot-stomped, neck-snapped, whined and kvetched, until the Shawnee Mission school district issued a statement saying Emma Sullivan didn’t have to apologize: “The district acknowledges a student’s right to freedom of speech and expression is constitutionally protected. The issue has resulted in many teachable moments concerning the use of social media.”
But, to quote one of my favorite films, this was "all far from over."
What followed was a national fire storm, most of it critical of Sam Brownback and Principal Krawitz, with folks saying Brownback was trying to intimidate a teenager, abridge freedom of speech, waste taxpayer dollars by monitoring what was written about him and being paranoid.
So, on Monday, Sam Brownback was the one who apologized, saying his staff had overreacted to the Tweet.
The “overreaction” certainly added to Sullivan’s popularity. Before the incident, she had about 65 Twitter followers. By mid-afternoon Monday, she had more 10,000, or more than three times as many as Brownback.