Emma Sullivan, an 18 year old senior at Shawnee Mission East High School was on a field trip to the state capitol on Nov. 21. During the field trip, Emma tweeted some friends, “Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot.” Emma never actually saw the governor to speak to him and said that the tweet to her friends were part of a joke between just them.
However, her tweet went to more than just a few friends. The tweet was picked up by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s staff, who immediately complained to the school’s principal. Emma was called into the principal’s office the next day and was told that she needed to write a letter of apology to the governor by Monday.
Emma said that after consulting with her parents and friends that she did not believe that she needed to write a letter of apology and to be forced to do so would be a violation of her first amendment right to free speech.
So I ask you what you think about this instance and if the school has the legal right to demand that she write a letter of apology to the governor?
When I was in high school many years ago, the governor of our state addressed our state government class. We were told that when the governor enters and leaves the room that we were to stand and show our respect. Since I had absolutely no respect for the governor at that time and felt the office he held was disrespected by him holding it, I remained sitting when he entered the classroom. It was a team taught class and one of the teachers pointed a finger at me and shook his head in warning.
When the governor left the class, again I remained seated. Both teachers took me outside and demanded to know why I did what I did and threatened to have me expelled from school unless I wrote a letter of apology. I told them that I didn’t stand because I did not respect the man or the office while he held it and that I was exercising my right to free speech and political views by not standing.
I was sent to the vice principal’s office and had to explain the whole thing over again about my rights to free speech and political views. The vice principal told me I needed to write a letter of apology to the governor and I told him that I refused and if the school tried to punish me for not doing so that they would be violating my constitutional rights and I would take them to court. At that, he left the room and I could hear him in the next office making a phone to someone at the school district office. A few minutes later, he returned and told me to go back to class and stay out of trouble because he was watching me.
However, that was forty-two years ago and nowadays schools don’t seem to care about violating student’s constitutional rights.
A number of politicians today don’t deserve any respect and I would probably do the same thing today, especially if it were Obama entering the room. I definitely would not stand for him as I have only disdain for the man and feel that he has so denigrated the office of President that it does not deserve any respect especially considering the fact that he is not legally qualified to hold the office in the first place.
I, for one, fully support Emma’s stand for refusing to write the letter of apology and pray that she continues to stand her ground. Evidently, thousands of others across the internet responded in favor of Emma and her refusal to apologize. After hearing about all of the support for Emma and negative feedback on the governor for complaining to the school, it was Emma that received an apology from the his office. Consequently, the school has also dropped action against her.
All too often, I hear people say that one person cannot make a difference, but that is not true. Emma was one person who stood up for her rights. Then a couple thousand other ‘one persons’ stood up with her and before long, their collective voice was heard and prevailed. My hat goes off to Emma and all those that made their voices heard to support her. We need more of this in America.