CHICAGO — The governor of Kansas faced an online trashing Friday for tattling on a teenaged girl who sent out a critical tweet during a visit to the state capitol.
Emma Sullivan, 18, was hauled into her principal’s office and ordered to write letters of apology after one of Governor Sam Brownback’s office contacted the tour organizer to complain about the offending note on the social networking site Twitter.
“Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot,” Sullivan wrote, despite not saying anything to Brownback during the visit — she said she wrote it to get a laugh out of her friends.
The principal “laid into me about how this was unacceptable and an embarrassment,” Sullivan later told 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.”
Sullivan had just 60 followers on Twitter when she wrote the offending note Monday. Two days later her story hit the local news ahead of the generally slow Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
By Friday morning, she was on CNN discussing the issue of censorship and free speech.
A lively discussion filled a dedicated Facebook page. Nearly 1,300 new people signed up to follow her Twitter feed, which until that point had been primarily devoted to her thoughts on the Twilight series and other typical teen musings.
“I’m mainly shocked that they would even see that tweet and be concerned about me,” Sullivan — who did not immediately return a request for comment — told the paper Wednesday.
“I just honestly feel they’re making a lot bigger deal out of it than it actually was.”
Brownback’s office regularly monitors social media for references to the Republican governor to see what his constituents are saying about him, spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag told the Eagle.
His secretary forwarded a copy of the tweet to organizers of the school-sponsored event “so that they were aware what their students were saying in regards to the governor’s appearance,” she said.
“We just felt it was appropriate for the organizers to be aware… because of what was said in the tweet.”
Brownback’s office did not immediately return a request for comment Friday.
Sullivan’s school was closed for the holiday, but a spokeswoman for the Shawnee Mission school district told the Eagle that officials would look into the incident on Monday.
While it became an embarrassment for her school, the heavy-handed reaction was garnering most of the criticism online.
“Good for you! How a ‘small government’ governor can use state resources to harass you is beyond me,” one commentator wrote on Sullivan’s Facebook page.
“In general,” spokeswoman Leigh Anne Neal said in an e-mail “students on school-sponsored field trips, in which they are representing the school, would be expected to conduct themselves in accordance with school district policies, including use of electronic devices.
“Students may express their personal beliefs, views, and opinions, as long as they do so appropriately and in accordance with school policies.”
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