Kansas Governor Apologizes After Staff Gets High School Student In Trouble For Tweet About The Governor

from the #heblowsalot-or-maybe-not dept

You may have recently heard the story of high school senior Emma Sullivan, who was told she had to write an apology letter to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback for a “disparaging” tweet she sent out while on a field trip to the state capitol. Apparently, while Brownback was talking to the group of students, she sent out from her mobile phone:

“Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot.”

She didn’t actually make any comments to the Governor, and says it was just a part of a running joke she had with some friends. However, someone on Brownback’s staff found the tweet and alerted school officials, who called her into the principal’s office and told her that she should write an apology letter to the Governor — due today. Sullivan thought about it and decided that she wouldn’t do it, because she didn’t think she should:

“I don’t think I should write the letter, and I don’t think it would be the best move for me,” Emma Sullivan, 18, said late Sunday night. “At this time, I do not think an apology would be a sincere thing for me to do.”

In response, it appears the whole story shifted in the other direction, and the one apologizing is Governor Brownback, who has said, “My staff overreacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize.” Everyone involved now seems to be playing off the whole misadventure as “a lesson in social media and free speech.” The school district also said that it would not send an apology of its own, and that “The issue has resulted in many teachable moments concerning the use of social media. The district does not intend to take any further action on this matter.”

In the end, it seems like everyone’s right that this is something of a “teachable moment,” but it’s still pretty crazy that it reached that level in the first place.

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Comments on “Kansas Governor Apologizes After Staff Gets High School Student In Trouble For Tweet About The Governor”

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ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Kids these days and their fancy jargon.

but who, or what, is “heblow salot”?

If I remember correctly, back in the days of Boy Scouting, that was the level between Cub Scout and Boy Scout ;). Too old to hang out with the kids, but too young to get a real job. Then again, Boy Scouts pretty much blew a lot too, lets not talk about it any more.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re: Plus Ungood

Teaching them to shut up and follow instructions is the whole point of the system. The whole system was created during the industrial revolution by the industry drivers who needed 1) compliant workers and 2) compliant buyers and embraced wholesale by a government that needed compliant tax payers. True education was never a real part of the plan.

lostalaska (profile) says:

Re: Re:

My school district just outright tells students that they have no rights if they want to go to public school. Students that point this out as patently wrong are labeled as trouble makers and malcontents and tend to find themselves spending more and more time in Saturday school and the principals office. Strange thing is we had an awfully high rate of “social misfits” as the administration calls them that are honor students and social activists that when told outright lies tend to stand up and say “NO you are the one who is wrong”.

Overcast (profile) says:

Here would be my ‘apology letter’…

Dear Mr. Governor,

Learn to govern – please study this fundamental right we have.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

A Taxpayer

Avantare (profile) says:

Gotta love the Streisand Effect.

I posted this on my Facebook page after I read about it on The Daily KOS Sunday morning.

Welcome to the Streisand effect governor Brownback and the staff of Shawnee Mission East (High School). Here’s the link I have and you can’t make me take it down.


Ironic it’s on Facebook isn’t it?

Anonymous Coward says:

Interesting…the kid makes some comment, followed by a staffer overreacting, followed by the governor apologizing. From many of the comments here, I guess the only thing that the governor could have done to make it right would have been to offer up the staffer as a sacrifice. Maybe, as an alternative, he could resign for his heinous crime.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

As updates to this story come out (via interviews with the local media) it turns out the little heroine wasn’t quite so heroic. She admits that she didn’t actually do what she claimed to have done, nor was she ordered by the district to apologize.

So, does she deserve her 15 minutes of glory? Seems like a fair amount of questionable statements were made either by the student, or on her behalf.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The principal demanded she apologize, after the wrath of the staff following ANYTHING on twitter about the Governor made its way to him.
They threatened to send a letter to her college of choice to make her kowtow to them.

She made a JOKING COMMENT TO ALL 65 of her followers, carrying on a running joke between them.
The result of this was the Governors Office HUNTING HER DOWN.

The principal works for the district, and until they reprimand him for his stupidity they are approving of the tactics used to trample on the rights of an adult citizen of the state.

Its all about respect for them, she doesn’t like an elected official, last I checked you only sent people out to terrorize those people in 3rd world dictatorships.

Maybe if they spent less time trying to manage his image on twitter and actually running the state things would get better.

abc gum says:

Re: Re: Re:

“turns out the little heroine wasn’t quite so heroic.”

Other than yourself, who said she is a hero?

“nor was she ordered by the district to apologize”

Arm twisting is seldom accompanied by a notarized list of demands.

“does she deserve her 15 minutes of glory?”

What is your problem? She would probably prefer not to be subjected to such treatment.

“Seems like a fair amount of questionable statements were made either by the student, or on her behalf.”

Yes, I’m sure it was all just made up and never happened.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

As a citizen of Kansas, I was dismayed when this story first started to break. I find that I am equally dismayed by the people that are so caught up in the desire to bash anyone in office that they are willing to continue the attack, regardless of what comes out in later interviews.

Here are the facts (according to Governor Brownback, the student, and the Constitution)

  • Yes, the governor’s office was overzealous in its pursuit of this student, and in contacting the school district. (Brownback)
  • Yes, the principal of her school did strongly suggest that she write an apology. (Student)
  • No, she didn’t really stand up to the governor and say “mean things” to him. (Student)
  • No, she didn’t “in person” tell Governor Brownback that “he sucked” (Student)
  • No, the principal did not order her to write an apology. (Student)
  • Yes, she has the right to express her opinion about the mayor/congressman/senator/governor/president/dogcatcher. (Constitution)
  • However, just because you have the right to do something doesn’t mean that you won’t initially face some kind of negative response, from those that don’t care for the manner by which you choose to exercise that right. By the same token, when someone does apologize for overreacting (whether they did it personally, or someone did it on their behalf), a civilized response would be to accept the apology and not dwell on it. That doesn’t mean that you don’t watch for similar misbehavior, and respond more forcefully if it happens again. But continuing to attack someone, after they have apologized, doesn’t provide much incentive for them to change their behavior.

    Will Best says:


    In a sane world, one or more school administrators would get fired as would the staffer that notified the school.

    Government officials who attempt censorship unrelated to national security or public safety shouldn’t get “teachable moments” they should get removed from places where they can attempt censorship.

    Anonymous Coward says:

    Re: sigh...

    But if I’m only preventing them from saying things about me, it’s not censorship, I’m just claiming full copyright, patents, trademarks, trade-dress, and publicity rights about any statements made about me, or that I may think are ‘kind of-possibly’ about me…

    It’s not like I want to stop ALL speech (unless I don’t like it), so it’s not really censorship…

    I’ll refer to it as IPMyself and claim all rights…..

    Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:

    Apparently in the land of the free and the home of the brave, it’s considered a crime to express a negative opinion about anybody or anything.

    It’s written that way in the Bill of Rights, isn’t it? That free speech shall not be abridged unless somebody’s feelings might possibly get hurt?

    Reminds me of this incident. Sometimes the people should check their assumptions before casting blame and threatening legal action. And frankly, the school should be better at promoting the students’ rights instead of panicking any time a public figure (or his staff) starts huffing and puffing.

    Bob (profile) says:


    41 & 44: The principal scolded her for an hour and at the time required her to write the apology letter. Only after the superintendent stepped in was that demand reversed.

    42 & 43: She said as much. It was a joke. At the time she had 60 followers, they were her friends and peers who got the joke. She reasonably had no idea the Gov’s office was looking for comments about him online.

    45: Thanks for noticing.

    His apology, if sincere, could have come on Friday afternoon when the story broke, before she had 12,000 followers on twitter. The apology after the bad publicity looks like he’s sorry it blew up in their face. If he truly disagreed with the policy he could have apologized upon hearing about it.

    I have heard claims of disrespect toward the young lady. She was on a school sponsored “youth in Government” trip. If anything she is guilty of being a teenager. Tweeting instead of paying attention, and guilty of tweeting something of little value in the debate of this governor being a horrible governor, of which there are many good arguments. Disrespectful, sure. But so was vetoing the Arts commission out of existence, making Kansas the only state ineligible for federal arts funds. And doing so in the face of his own party’s desire and the desire of the majority of those he supposedly governs.

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