Photograph by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.
UPDATE: Sam Brownback is sorry his office made such a big deal about an insulting tweet from a Kansas teen last week.
"My staff overreacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize," Brownback said in a statement emailed to the Associated Press on Monday afternoon. "Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms."
After coming across Emma Sullivan's tweet—which said that the Kansas governor "sucked" and included the hashtag #heblowsalot—last week, Brownback's office flagged it for field trip organizers, and school officials later demanded the 18-year-old write a letter of apology to Brownback. The story quickly went viral, with Twitter users and a number of bloggers defending Sullivan and blaming Brownback and school officials for overreacting.
Monday, Nov. 28 at 1:12 p.m.: The Kansas teen who insulted Republican Gov. Sam Brownback last week with the hashtag #heblowsalot won't be punished after she refused to apologize for the offending tweet, school officials said Monday afternoon.
The Shawnee Mission School District told the Associated Press that Emma Sullivan will not be disciplined after refusing a request from her school's principal to write a letter of apology to the Kansas governor. The school district said it "acknowledges a student's right to freedom of speech and expression is constitutionally protected."
The decision comes one day after Sullivan said that writing the letter would be insincere and that she wouldn't do it. It also comes as the anti-Brownback tweet has gone viral, bringing the 18-year-old temporary fame. She now has nearly 9,000 Twitter followers (@emmakate988), more than twice the total of Brownback (@govsambrownback).
At the time of her original tweet, Sullivan had only several dozen followers, but she has seen that number balloon after Browback's office flagged the insulting tweet for Sullivan's school. Many have shown their support for Sullivan by retweeting her original comments and/or the hashtag.
A number of liberal bloggers have also weighed in, blaming both Brownback's office for making an issue of the tweet and Sullivan's school for demanding she write a letter of apology to the Kansas governor.
"I would say that the students in question definitely have been ‘taught’ something about government," wrote one at the Daily Kos. "They’ve been taught exactly what most of the rest of us got ‘taught’ at around the same age: Government is filled with pissy little people who have nothing better to do than use whatever tiny scrap of power they have to make the lives of those around them miserable."
Monday, Nov. 28 at 9:45 a.m.: The 18-year-old Kansas teen who took to Twitter during a field trip to the state house last week to express her dislike for Gov. Sam Brownback says that she won't offer the written apology that her high school principal is demanding.
Emma Sullivan said that penning such a letter would not be sincere because she is not sorry for the tweet, which came with the hashtag #heblowsalot. "I would do it again," she told the Associated Press on Sunday, one day before her apology letter was due.
Her principal, Karl R. Krawitz, declined to comment to the AP on the matter but had previously told local media that the situation is a "private issue, not a public matter."
Sullivan says that she has been contacted by a number of lawyers but is waiting to see how the school responds to her decision not to write the apology letter before taking further action.
Friday, Nov. 25: High school students: don’t say mean things about Kansas’s Gov. Sam Brownback on Twitter, unless you like going to the principal’s office.
That’s what happened to Emma Sullivan, who according to NBC Action News joked on Twitter after a field trip to the state Capitol with her class and found herself in trouble.
Sullivan, 18, sent this tweet after Gov. Brownback spoke to her and other students:
“just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot.”
Even though the senior at Shawnee Mission East High School had just 60 followers on the social media, and didn’t actually say anything to the governor, word got out about her comment, and someone from Brownback’s office reportedly let an administrator from the school district know.
Sullivan found herself in the principal’s office the next day. She was asked to write an apology to the governor, though she has yet to decide whether she will do so.
“I believe that it is my right to state my opinion,” Sullivan told NBC. “I don’t believe with the majority of the things that he is trying to pass, or like not letting pass.”