Kansas teen won't apologize for her tweet about Gov. Sam Brownback
A Kansas teen, Emma Sullivan, is now the center of a free speech debate after tweeting a criticism of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.
Kansas City, Mo. — An American teenager who wrote a disparaging tweet about Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said Sunday that she is rejecting her high school principal's demand for a written apology.
Emma Sullivan, 18, said she isn't sorry and doesn't think such a letter would be sincere.
The Shawnee Mission East senior was taking part in a Youth in Government program last week when she sent out a tweet from the back of a crowd of students listening to Brownback's greeting. From her cellphone, she thumbed: "Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot."
She actually made no such comment and said she was "just joking with friends." But Brownback's office, which monitors social media for postings containing the governor's name, saw Sullivan's post and contacted the Youth in Government program.
Sullivan received a scolding at school and was ordered to send Brownback an apology letter. She said Prinicipal Karl R. Krawitz even suggested talking points for the letter she was supposed to turn in Monday.
The situation exploded after Sullivan's older sister contacted the media. Since then, Sullivan's following on Twitter has grown to about 3,000 people, up from about 65 before the tweet. She said she thinks the tweet has helped "open up dialogue" about free speech in social media..
"I would do it again," she said.
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.
She hasn't heard from Brownback or his staff. She said she wouldn't mind sitting down and talking to the governor.
Sullivan said she disagrees with Brownback politically, particularly his decision to veto the Kansas Arts Commission's entire budget, making Kansas the only state in the nation to eliminate arts funding. Brownback has argued arts programs can flourish with private dollars and that state funds should go to core government functions, such as education and social services.
"I think it would be interesting to have a dialogue with him," she said. "I don't know if he would do it or not though. And I don't know that he would listen to what I have to say."
Sherriene Jones-Sontag, the governor's spokeswoman, told The Star previously that Sullivan's message wasn't respectful and that it takes mutual respect to "really have a constructive dialogue." Brownback's office didn't return calls or emails Sunday from the AP.
Sullivan's mother, Julie, said she isn't angry with her daughter, even though she thinks she "could have chosen different words."
"She wasn't speaking to the 3,000 followers she has now," Julie Sullivan said. "She was talking to 65 friends. And also it's the speech they use today. It's more attention grabbing. I raised my kids to be independent, to be strong, to be free thinkers. If she wants to tweet her opinion about Gov. Brownback, I say for her to go for it and I stand totally behind her."