Emma Sullivan Shouldn’t Be A Victim

If you haven’t heard about this, before you read on, you should read this link
http://bit.ly/uzUBE9 . This is about a young girl in Kansas who did…nothing. She posted something on Twitter. Seriously, that’s all she did.

Now, some of you might be thinking, “Well, this really isn’t a big deal. Why all the fuss?”. Ok, fine. Go back to Monday Night Football or whatever reality show you’ve got going. Or Farmville, if that’s your thing. But you’re missing something. This story is about someone abusing their position of power, and what really bothers me is that the target is an 18-year old girl.

People all too often in our society turn a blind eye to something that’s wrong. I’m sure many of us have been in situations where we were the underdog and no one stood up for us. I have a hard time with letting someone get away with pushing others around. We all have a voice.

I sent the following e-mail to the high school principal in the above “linked” article, as well as the editorial page of the Kansas City Star, the Kansas State Legislature, the Kansas Senate president, and the Kansas Senate Minority Leader. Here are their e-mail addresses, in case anyone would like to add their voice:

Principal Krawitz: eakrawit@smsd.org
Kansas State Legislature: LegServ@las.ks.gov
Kansas Senate President, Steve Morris: Steve.Morris@senate.ks.gov
Kansas Senate Minority Leader, Anthony Hensley: Anthony.Hensley@senate.ks.gov

There is a right and a wrong here. If you agree, retweet the link to this blog on your Twitter. Share it on your Facebook page. E-mail it to a friend. Ever wish someone would have spoken up for you? Here’s your chance to speak up for someone else.

E-mail sent as follows:

Mr. Krawitz,

I am writing to you because of a news report I recently read concerning what one of your students posted on her Twitter account. I am unsure as to whether or not you are the administrator responsible for demanding that this high school student write a letter of apology to the governor or not; your assistant principals were mentioned on your school’s website and the article did not mention the administrator responsible. If, in fact, you are not the administrator who spoke to Miss Sullivan, please forward this e-mail to the appropriate individual.

I understand that Miss Sullivan posted an unflattering message on Twitter concerning the governor of Kansas. But it should be understood that this is her right to do so. She did not post this message on your school’s website. It therefore should be none of your administration’s concern. I have posted many messages about Governor Rick Perry of Texas on Twitter, and have even criticized his debate performance on my blog. Not once have I been called to my employer’s office to have an apology demanded of me.

As a proud veteran of the United States Army, I can say that my voluntary service means something to me because of the ideals our country stands for, i.e. The 1st Amendment. Miss Sullivan was merely expressing her opinion about an elected official. And while we can’t expect the sensitive staff of a state’s governor to understand the rights that their employer has been elected to uphold, I would think that an administrator responsible for educating teenagers in America would not only understand this right of expression, but defend it. Does it matter how it was phrased? I’m not sure as to how familiar you are with Twitter, but I imagine some of your students are saying worse things on Twitter, during their classes, than Miss Sullivan said about the governor. It goes without saying that your administration at Shawnee Mission East doesn’t monitor the Twitter accounts of your student body. Why then, I ask, does Miss Sullivan deserve to be called into your office for this on-line posting? The answer is obvious: because it angered (the staff of) a powerful man. There is simply no other way of looking at the situation.

I’m writing this to you because I’m concerned. What does it mean when an elected official (or the staff representing him) can contact a school, or school district officials, to enact any sort of punishment for an opinion held by a student at that school? Many people in the media are considering this story a humorous commentary on the sensitivity of the governor of Kansas. I, on the other hand, see a grown man who should know better acting like a bully. Your school’s website has a link on it for anti-bullying references. What message does it send the student body to have an anti-bullying program in place and yet the administration can, in effect, “push around” an eighteen year old student at the whim of an older, powerful man?

I can’t say that I’m surprised by Gov. Brownback’s reaction. What completely confuses me is that a school administrator, responsible for educating young people, and, to a degree, with protecting them, can so willingly be enticed to use their position to influence the actions of a student. Miss Sullivan does not owe the governor an apology. This matter should not even have been considered by your office to be an incident worthy of discussing with Miss Sullivan, simply because an elected official should not be able to influence the actions of a school administrator regarding the free expression of a student. A principal’s first responsibility should be to the well-being of his or her students, and in this case, a gross offense was committed.

I ask that you reconsider asking Miss Sullivan to write this apology. There is a right and a wrong in this matter, and anyone that reflects on this can see that Gov. Brownback is doing nothing more than going after a person that can’t fight back. This is bullying, this is an issue of freedom of speech, and more importantly, it is a matter of a professional in the educational field doing the right thing. I ask, sir, that you reconsider your position on this matter and let the matter of the apology go unenforced. To do otherwise is to allow Gov. Brownback to win against a young member of the school you are responsible for. It is to send a message that you can’t express an opinion on your social media account. It says that anyone in a position of power can dominate and bully those who can’t fight back. None of the aforementioned falls on the side of “right”.

Please consider what I’ve had to say, and I thank you for your time.

Brent Bednorz
Baltimore, MD

Posted on November 27, 2011, in Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. The moment I read about this, I was just sickened that the governor would go that far over an 18 year old saying he sucked. If he’s unable to take any sort of negative criticism – whether constructive or otherwise – then why is he in office? As a public official, name-calling and complaints go with the territory. If he is that sensitive, then he should really resign and take a job away from the public. Plain and simple.

    It’s very likely she’ll be forced to write an apology – they can hold graduation, her grades, prom, etc. over her head if she doesn’t comply with their rules (schools can be underhanded and nasty about things – been there, experienced that.) Of course, there’s a very serious lawsuit in this either way (I’ll be surprised if the ACLU doesn’t become involved at some point,) but I won’t be surprised if some sort of apology is made. :-/

    From a bullying standpoint, the governor and his office is setting a horrible double standard here. One cannot jump on the anti-bullying bandwagon and then use one’s office to tattle on a teenager for expressing her opinion on a social media website. Frankly, all that says to any bullies out there is that if you have the position and the pull, you can terrorize whomever you want.

    I think when this is all said and done, though, the voters in Kansas need to take a very good look at this issue the next time they go to the polls. We all must fight to protect our Constitutional rights, whether we be liberal or conservative. And if this man is willing and allowed to succeed at bullying an 18 year old girl over her opinion, then who’s next?

  2. vancitydissident2

    This young lady is eighteen. She’s old enough to vote. She’s old enough to enlist in our military and die for our nation. She is legally an adult, and she has the right to voice her opinion.

    Does anyone know what happens when people are silenced?
    aziism, Fascism, Stalinism, Maoism, Iran, Egypt, Libya, Pol Pot’s Cambodia.
    Let’s fix this problem with authority, preferably before whatever authority ends up in charge decides each of us is a problem in need of fixing.

  3. Great letter. I would add that a public school administrator’s first instinct should be to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. That should be everyone’s first instinct. Obviously, the voters of Kansas failed in their duty to protect the Constitution by electing Brownback. Here is hoping that they get it right in 2012.

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