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Kansas Principal Stands Up to Governor Brownback Over Student’s Free Speech Rights [not]

Shawnee Mission East (Kansas) high school principal Karl R. Krawitz bravely stood up to the office of Governor Sam Brownback over a visiting student’s joking tweet about the Governor. Brownback’s communications office, reviewing social media scrupulously for messages related to the obviously thin-skinned governor, took great offense to high school senior Emma Sullivan’s Monday tweet from the back of a student tour group as Brownback delivered an anodyne greeting about public service and civic engagement:

“Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot”

She made no such comments at the event, of course: Emma Sullivan provided her light-hearted (and fictional) Twitter take on a typically ho-hum event featuring the right-wing governor, to her few followers. Later, speaking to a reporter, Emma Sullivan made clear their politics diverge sharply:

“We all are liberal, and we are opposed to a lot of his views,” she says. “I’m just an 18-year-old girl who knows what I believe, and I know what he believes, and we disagree. That is not going to change.”

Luckily, Emma Sullivan’s high school principal values her free-speech rights and stood up for her when contacted by Sherienne Jones-Sontag, Dear Leader’s director of communications.

“That wasn’t respectful,” responded Sherriene Jones-Sontag. “In order to really have a constructive dialogue, there has to be mutual respect.” [snip] “It was important for the organization to be aware of the comments their students were making.” Jones-Sontag says. “It’s also important for students to recognize the power of social media, how lasting it is. It is on the Internet.”

When contacted for an apology, Emma Sullivan’s high school principal told the governor’s office that his student’s free speech rights were more important than whatever offense his appointed functionaries took at an obviously humorous response to their boss.

Except, oh wait — not really:

Sullivan says things developed quickly: She landed in the principal’s office for a scolding that lasted nearly an hour. She says she was told the “not so nice” comments had embarrassed her school and the district and that “damage control” with the governor’s office was the next step.

So Shawnee Mission East is forcing her to write an apology to the governor’s office, with the principal even giving her talking points to hit.

Of course, the principal’s response — requiring a dictated apology from a voting-age high school senior — has brought more attention to the overly sensitive governor’s office, Principal Krawitz’s own servile compliance with a political appointee’s demands, and student Sullivan’s ability to stand up for herself in the face of the governor and her principal:

The whole episode left Sullivan’s 19-year-old sister, Olivia Sullivan, who is a political science major at Wichita State University, flabbergasted.

“I think it is embarrassing to the governor and to the administration of the school and the school district to waste time and taxpayer money on something so petty. And it’s discouraging to children when they are told they can’t speak their mind.”

This Kansas principal could have been a hero among educators, administrators, students, and free speech advocates across America. Student free speech is a core value of American public education, as the right move here would have reminded the governor. Instead, Krawitz is the new poster boy for craven apparatchiks everywhere who bow to the whims of unelected authority-worshipping courtiers, when they should instead educate their student charges about their civil rights versus the state’s heavy-handed reach.

As even social-media-monitor Sherriene Jones-Sontag advises us from her office near Governor Brownback’s pouty place:

“It’s also important for students to recognize the power of social media, how lasting it is. It is on the Internet.”

Apparently, it’s also important for directors of communications and high school principals to recognize the power of social media. The internet is indeed forever, and now they are both immortalized online, as is Emma Sullivan’s tweet; that never would have happened without the free speech suppression they initiated and complied with.

Well played, gubernatorial director of communications Sherriene Jones-Sontag and Shawnee Mission East High School Principal Karl Krawitz. These two will both go far serving Dear Leader Brownback and his New Authoritarian State, the Republic of Gilead-Kansas.

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