IT Infrastructure

Teenager’s Tweet About Governor Causes Uproar

By McClatchy-Tribune — December 06, 2011 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A student’s recent tweet criticizing Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback soon became the center of a heated debate about students’ free-speech rights.

The saga began Nov. 21 when Emma Sullivan, a senior at Shawnee Mission East High School, tweeted: “Just made mean comments at gov.brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot,” as she and other students involved in a Youth in Government program listened to the Republican’s welcome. (She didn’t actually make those comments or meet him.)

The governor’s staff noticed the Twitter message and brought it to the attention of educators. The 18-year-old said she was summoned before Principal Karl Krawitz, who scolded her and told her to write an apology.

Reports of the dispute—and the apology demand—soon exploded on the Internet.

“There’s no reason why a voting-age citizen, whether in or out of high school, should be prevented from making negative comments about an elected official,” wrote blogger E.D. Kain on the Forbes website. “Our political leaders are not gods. They’re just men and women, flawed like the rest of us.”

But others said manners and civility are important goals, particularly for educators. “I am not asking her to agree with Brownback, but respect for our institutions is an important thing for schools to teach,” wrote blogger Anthony Colleluori, a New York lawyer.

Still others thought the teenager’s comments may have been rude, but that the governor’s office overreacted.

District officials decided last week that she would not have to apologize for the message, but Mr. Brownback did, saying he was sorry that his staff “overreacted.”

Some experts said free-speech rights are always complicated when students are involved, and the issues can be especially difficult when students use social media like Facebook and Twitter.

“Because it’s very unmanageable and unwieldy and it goes viral like this tweet did, it’s very scary for everybody,” said Michelle Sherman, a lawyer who studies social-media legal issues.

A version of this article appeared in the December 07, 2011 edition of Education Week as Teenager’s Tweet About Governor Causes Uproar

Events

Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Personalized Learning Webinar
No Time to Waste: Individualized Instruction Will Drive Change
Targeted support and intervention can boost student achievement. Join us to explore tutoring’s role in accelerating the turnaround. 
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools
Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Social-Emotional Learning: Making It Meaningful
Join us for this event with educators and experts on the damage the pandemic did to academic and social and emotional well-being.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

IT Infrastructure From Our Research Center What the Massive Shift to 1-to-1 Computing Means for Schools, in Charts
1-to-1 computing has expanded at a rate few could have imagined prior to the pandemic, creating opportunities and problems.
1 min read
Illustration of laptop computer displaying bar graph.
Illustration by F. Sheehan/Education Week (Images: iStock/Getty and E+)
IT Infrastructure Internet on School Buses: FCC Eyes E-Rate Change to Expand Access
FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel announced a proposal that would allow the use of federal E-rate funding for Wi-Fi in school buses.
2 min read
A Brownsville Independent School District bus acts as a Wi-Fi hotspot for students needing to connect online for distance learning at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year in the Texas school system.
A Brownsville Independent School District bus acts as a WI-FI hotspot for students needing to connect online for distance learning on the first day of class Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, in the parking lot of the Margaret M. Clark Aquatic Center in Brownsville, Texas. The bus is one of 20 hotspots throughout the city to help students have access to their online classes as part of the remote start to the school year due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald via AP
IT Infrastructure Stopping Cyberattacks Is Top Priority for Ed-Tech Leaders. But Many Underestimate the Risk
Most K-12 district tech leaders rate common cybersecurity threats as just low or medium risk, survey shows.
4 min read
Images shows a symbolic lock on a technical background.
iStock/Getty