Making headlines this past week has been a tweet that an 18-year-old high school senior wrote in reference to her state’s governor. Emma Sullivan, a student at Shawnee Mission East high school in Kansas, was participating in a Youth in Government program in Topeka where she, among friends and classmates, was listening to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback speak. During the talk, she tweeted: “Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot”. While she didn’t actually speak to Governor Brownback directly, her tweet has received both local and national attention, as well as contact from the Governor’s office and a demand from her principal that she issue a written apology.
Like many other political organizations, Governor Brownback’s office monitors various social media outlets and contacted the Youth in Government program upon reading Sullivan’s tweet. Karl R. Krawitz, the principal of Shawnee Mission East, demanded that Sullivan give the Governor a written apology, a demand that this past Sunday, Sullivan says she is rejecting, saying she isn’t sorry and doesn’t think issuing a formal apology would be sincere. As an explanation for her tweet, Sullivan disagrees with Brownback politically, especially because of his decision to eliminate arts funding in Kansas public schools (making it the only state to do so).
While Sullivan is receiving a lot of attention – both positive and negative – for her tweet, the lesson we want to highlight is that anything posted online can usually be seen or discovered by an outside party. Sullivan has gained over 12,000 followers (up from 65) since sending this particular tweet. In a statement, her mother Julie explained that her daughter wasn’t addressing the thousands of followers she now has, “she was talking to 65 friends.” But because Sullivan’s tweets were public, which is the default setting for Twitter accounts, anyone could read their content. While it doesn’t look like Sullivan is going to face any real repercussions or punishment – she was, after all, exercising her right to free speech – both parents and kids should be aware that other information posted publicly online could result in far worse consequences.
What do you think about Emma Sullivan’s tweet? What would your reaction be if your child posted something online that garnered so much public attention?