Here’s an absolutely clear cut case of a school overstepping the First Amendment, with the help of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who was apparently upset when a student tweeted something mean about him when he spoke to a group of high schoolers from around the state.
A Kansas teenager is in trouble after mocking Gov. Sam Brownback during a mock legislative assembly for high school students.
Emma Sullivan, a senior at Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, was in Topeka on Monday as part of Kansas Youth in Government, a program for students interested in politics and government.
During the session, in which Brownback addressed the group, Sullivan posted on her personal Twitter page:
“Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot”
On Tuesday, Sullivan was called to her principal’s office and told that the tweet had been flagged by someone on Brownback’s staff and reported to organizers of the Youth in Government program.
And rather than defending the student’s right to criticize Brownback, the principal is forcing her to write letters of apology:
The principal “laid into me about how this was unacceptable and an embarrassment,” Sullivan said. “He said I had created this huge controversy and everyone was up in arms about it … and now he had to do damage control.
“I’m mainly shocked that they would even see that tweet and be concerned about me,” she said. “I just honestly feel they’re making a lot bigger deal out of it than it actually was.”
Sullivan said the principal ordered her to write letters of apology to Brownback, the school’s Youth in Government sponsor, the district’s social studies coordinator and others.
The principal has no such authority under the constitution. The student says she intends to write the letters but she shouldn’t do so. She should call the ACLU and then tell the principal to read the First Amendment.
Update: Looks like she decided to do just that.
A Kansas teenager who wrote a disparaging tweet about Gov. Sam Brownback said Sunday that she is rejecting her high school principal’s demand for a written apology.
Emma Sullivan, 18, of the Kansas City suburb of Fairway, said she isn’t sorry and doesn’t think such a letter would be sincere…
Sullivan has received emails from attorneys but is waiting to see what happens when she refuses to hand in a letter. Krawitz, her principal, told The Kansas City Star previously that the situation is a “private issue, not a public matter” but didn’t return a phone message from The Associated Press at his home Sunday.
Um. No. It’s a very public matter. You are an agent of the government and your actions toward a student are governed by the constitution. And if your attorneys aren’t telling you to retract your demand for an apology letter, you’re gonna lose badly in court.