Gov. Brownback Apologizes to Twitter Teen For Free Speech Controversy

This is like the story that keeps giving.

First, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback got high school senior Emma Sullivan in a bit of trouble at school after the teen tweeted that she “Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot,” …probably because the hashtag just pushed his tolerance level of online bullying into “not okay” territory. Gov. Brownback’s office rang the student’s school to explain that the teen had teased him on the internet and caused intense butthurt, and Sullivan was called onto the carpet at school, where officials dressed her down for the better part of an hour over her injudicious and hilarious use of social media. But Sullivan almost instantly became a blogosphere darling, both for her outspokenness on the Twitters as well her response, which was basically “deal with it.”

Yes, Sullivan’s school requested a written apology from the student to Gov. Brownback, which she respectfully declined to write. Awesomely, this got the school to shut its face about the infringement on Sullivan’s First Amendment rights. The district issued a statement indicating that they’d “reviewed recent events surrounding the reported tweet by Shawnee Mission East High School student Emma Sullivan… [and acknowledged] a student’s right to freedom of speech and expression is constitutionally protected.”

Oh snap. But it gets better! Gov. Brownback’s flak also backed down on their request, apologizing for the overreach and issuing a statement from the governor:

“My staff over-reacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize. Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms.

“I enjoyed speaking to the more than 100 students who participated in the Youth in Government Program at the Kansas Capitol. They are our future.

“I also want to thank the thousands of Kansas educators who remind us daily of our liberties, as well as the values of civility and decorum. Again, I apologize for our over-reaction.”

Do you think tweets sent during school hours are protected speech?