Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In Reversal, Gov. Brownback Apologizes To Tweeting Teen

I wrote earlier in the week about Emma Sullivan (left), the Kansas high school senior who was told by her principal to apologize to Governor Sam Brownback (R) for writing a tweet disparaging the latter as he spoke at a Youth in Government program. Sullivan was angry about the governor's revoking arts funding in her school and state. Brownback's staff evidently considered tracking social media for objectionable messages a worthy use of its time. Sherriene Jones-Sontag, Brownback spokeswoman, said that the tweet was forwarded to the school “so that they were aware what their students were saying in regards to the governor’s appearance."

Snooping on Sullivan's tweets, relaying them to the school, demanding that the student apologize–these actions by the Brownback administration and the school were an outrageous violation of Sullivan's First Amendment rights. It was heartening to see that Sullivan refused to apologize "because it wouldn't be sincere." It was also heartening to see that Brownback was the one who apologized, stating, “My staff over-reacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize. Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms." One question about this apology: "My staff"? Where does the buck stop, governor?

The governor also has to regret the media firestorm he and his staff created. They, after all, acted as publicity agents for Sullivan. Initially, the teen had 60 followers on Twitter. As of this writing, she has over 15,000.

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