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Monday, October 2, 2023

Staff Editorial

Kansas teen stands up for First Amendment

Children are taught to respect elders while at the same time forming opinions for themselves. Adults are expected to be able to voice a reasonable opinion — even if some people disagree. But a teenager in Kansas found out the hard way that Gov. Sam Brownback feels differently.

Emma Sullivan, 18, attended a Youth in Government event in Topeka, Kan., when she tweeted, “Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot.”

Sullivan did not actually say those words at the event. Brownback’s office, however, saw the tweet and contacted the Youth in Government program. Sullivan was chastised by Shawnee Mission East Principal Karl R. Krawitz and was asked to write an official letter of apology to the governor. She has refused to do so, and even said she would do the same thing again if she had the chance.

The problem here isn’t with the statement — expressing distaste with elected officials is completely fine, according to the First Amendment. The problem comes when a governor decides to get an eligible voter in trouble with his or her school because of something that was said on a social media site.

Apparently Brownback does not have thick skin, nor does he seem to value the opinions of young voters. If Sullivan was a college student or older, there would be no problem; nothing would happen. But when a high school student expresses an opinion, he or she is reprimanded and told to apologize. The double standard is obvious.

Even worse, Brownback has refused to comment, other than having spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag say that the comment was not respectful.

Unfortunately, the way Brownback or Krawitz handled the situation was not respectful either. Placing a person in the principal’s office and trying to force an apology is not the way an adult should act. If Brownback thinks that the comment was disrespectful, he should change his policies and focus on winning the votes of people like Sullivan — not turning dissenters over to the authorities.


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