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Student Refuses to Apologize to Kansas Governor

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By Amanda Winkler, Christian Post Reporter
November 28, 2011|1:28 pm

Emma Sullivan, 18, has decided not to issue a letter of apology to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, she announced on Sunday via Twitter.

The Shawnee Mission East senior made headlines last week when she tweeted that the governor “sucked” and that (hashtag) “heblowsalot.” She tweeted her comments when she was participating in a Youth in Government program last week in Topeka, Kan., in which her fellow students listened to Brownback give a speech.

Brownback’s office saw the tweet when doing their daily monitoring of the social media atmosphere for any mentions of the governor. When the office came across Sullivan’s tweet, they immediately complained to the high school about the student’s “disrespectful” statement.

Brownback’s director of Communication, Sherriene Jones-Sontag, said her office had forwarded a copy of Sullivan’s tweet to organizers of the Youth in Government event “so that they were aware what their students were saying in regards to the governor’s appearance,” according to The Wichita Eagle.

“We monitor social media so we can see what Kansans are thinking and saying about the governor and his policies. We just felt it was appropriate for the organizers to be aware … because of what was said in the tweet.”

“It’s also important for students to recognize the power of social media, how lasting it is. It is on the Internet,” Jones-Sontag continued, according to Forbes.

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Sullivan was called into the principal’s office last week to discuss the incident.

The principal “laid into me about how this was unacceptable and an embarrassment,” Sullivan said, according to The Wichita Eagle. “He said I had created this huge controversy and everyone was up in arms about it … and now he had to do damage control.”

According to Sullivan, the principal ordered her to write apology letters to Brownback, the high school’s Youth in Government sponsor, and the district social studies coordinator.

“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.”

At the time of her tweet, Sullivan had only 60 followers. Today her following has ballooned to over 6,500 with most people supporting her. Sullivan has said she disagrees with Brownback on policy issues, mainly his decision to cut state funding for the arts.

Despite her principal’s orders Sullivan has refused to apologize. Instead, she hopes the incident will open “the door for average citizens to voice their opinion and to be heard,” she commented on Twitter.

“I was planning on doing it (writing the letter), just out of fear, I didn't want to get in trouble. But the more I thought about it and the more advice I got, I decided against it,” Sullivan told The Christian Post.

“It is discouraging to know that people are willing to trample free speech so quickly. I hope that my story inspires people to say what they want and not be afraid. Whether it is on twitter or national news, if someone asks me my opinion, I should feel comfortable saying how I feel. “

Sullivan said the biggest lesson she has learned from all of this is that “if you believe in something, you have to stick by it. And if you get in trouble, at least you have said your part.”

Sullivan plans on entering college next year and while she does not foresee a career in politics she does plan to stay politically engaged and up-to-date on issues.

As of now, the principal at Shawnee Mission East has not returned phone calls from The Christian Post.

 

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