Abuse of Government Power+ School Administrator Cowardice = Student Persecution

Enemy of the State.

Emma Sullivan, an 18-year-old high school senior at Fairway, Kansas’s Shawnee Mission East High School,  went with her class on a field trip to the Capitol and heard Gov. Sam Brownback speak. She tweeted her reactions to her Twitter followers, writing, “just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot”.

The part about making mean comments to the Governor was a lie, but on a scale of believability and damage done, not an especially momentous one. It was adults who turned this unremarkable student tweet into an ethics train wreck in three neat, unforgivable steps.

1. First, some over-zealous hack on the Brownback’s staff saw the tweet and complained to an administrator in the school district. This is a First Degree Ethics Foul. Nothing in Sullivan’s tweet brings it within his, the governor’s or the government’s legitimate concerns. For the staffer to complain was petty, vindictive and mean-spirited. Every second he spent on his vendetta was a waste of taxpayer dollars. Worst of all, he was bringing the power of the government to bear on a teenager for doing nothing more than expressing her opinion, which is that Governor Brownback sucks. I’m sure there have been foreign dictators who would punish a teen for doing no more than telling friends that she doesn’t like him, but I would have thought that someone who works in one of the United States governments would instinctively know that this kind of bullying mind-control isn’t allowed here. I was wrong. Brownback does suck, at least at picking staff.

2. Next, the school district honcho called by Brownback’s brown shirt meekly did his bidding, and put pressure on the Shawnee Mission East High principal. What a craven weasel. He should have told the lackey to back off, that what a student tweets in her spare time is none of the staffer’s, the state’s, the school’s or the governor’s business, and that his next call would be to the ACLU and the news media if the matter wasn’t dropped immediately. But the school district administrator had neither the integrity, courage or common sense to do that, which permitted the fiasco to be passed on to the next spineless incompetent, and which also, I submit, tells us all we need to know about why public education in the U.S. is a disgrace.

3. The next spineless incompetent in the sequence was the principal. He, of course, should have told the school district hack what the school district hack should have told Brownback’s hack, but since he is also a craven weasel, this did not occur to him, or if it did, he lacked the character to do it.

Yes, I know—it would be more dispassionate and dignified to describe the conduct of these people in more sterile terms: irresponsible, abusing power, lacking proportion, violating autonomy, unfair, reckless and careless, unkind, incompetent, imprudent, and, of course, cowardly. I am weary, however, of observing the incalculable damage school bureaucrats do to our institutions, our youth and our culture by their absence of ethical instincts, common sense, compassion and courage. They deserve to be shamed, shunned, and condemned in the harshest terms, not the most measured.

The principal called Sullivan into his office, and demanded that she apologize…for a message she composed on her own time, reflecting her own opinions, that is absolutely none of the school’s business.

A personal social networking message denigrating another student or attacking a teacher is none of a school’s business, and this is pure political speech, the most protected speech in the Bill of Rights. Did the people who run schools today ever actually attend one?

“This is not about political views since none were given in the tweet – is about being respectful with a public official whether we agree or disagree with their viewpoints,” was the principal’s explanation. May I be permitted a retort? You are a pusillanimous idiot. The student did not communicate with a public official. A tweet into the Twitterverse is not personal communication to any individual who happens to be mentioned in it. If the student had been rude to the governor directly while representing her class, as her tweet suggested, then she would indeed owe him an apology and the school would have a legitimate interest in compelling one. She did not, however. She does not owe the governor an apology for her fantasies. She does not owe the governor an apology for writing that he sucks, which means no more and no less than she doesn’t care for him. You, the weasel at the school district and the governor’s bully owe her an apology, and probably Gov. Brownback does too, since he has assembled such a pathetically foolish and reckless group of lackeys to do his state’s work.

So far, Emma has refused to apologize, and I urge everyone to contact her on Twitter and give her support. Her twitter handle is emmakate988.

12 thoughts on “Abuse of Government Power+ School Administrator Cowardice = Student Persecution

  1. I agree with you about the ethics of the school administration on the situation. That is like a teacher finding a note passed between a number of students. It was only an opinion of one student. It wasn’t intended for a larger audience.

    “But the school district administrator had neither the integrity, courage or common sense to do that, which permitted the fiasco to be passed on to the next spineless incompetent, and which also, I submit, tells us all we need to know about why public education in the U.S. is a disgrace.”

    However this generalization of the public school system wreaks of an ethics foul as well and I take offense to that statement. It is a poor generalization. Even though I was an average student in a public school, many of my peers went on to prestigious colleges and universities turning out to be nationally known musicians, attorneys, professors, clothing designers, scientists, doctors, teachers, coaches, radio and television personalities, businessmen and other productive positions in society. We always scored high nationally on pre-college exams. We had two national teachers of the year. Being an average student, I always did fairly well compared with my peers during national training and classroom situations.

    I won’t deny that some public school systems are not up to par nationally. Some of the private schools also lack classes that provide students tools to participate in diverse situations. I have seen some well rounded people come out of home schooled backgrounds, but many of them participated in public school music, arts, and athletics. Where would they have been without those type of social programs offered at public schools? There are many public schools in rural areas where the citizens have no choice of a private school education and both parents have to work nixing the possibility of home schooling. Some of my peers that have done homeschooling, I seriously wonder how they think they are better teachers than in our local public school system. Sure they were well rounded students in school, but they lack knowledge on how to teach.

    I disagree with your statement and think it is an unfair generalization!

    • At one time, I would have agreed with you. I now am convinced that the level of leadership and competence in school districts are uniformly low, and that courage and good judgment, in particular,are in short supply. The system is broken, and broken systems attract progressively less competent and dedicated employees.
      I had a great time in public school, and an excellent education in that system. In my old high school, the two students who had the worst grades and SAT scores have been in the faculty and administration for almost 40 years. My experience indicates that is far from atypical, and supports my contention: the schools are failing the students because of poor staffing of the schools.

      • I can agree with that. Many teachers used to be eccentric, but were dedicated to their students. Now days it is just a paycheck. I think the ” No Child Left Behind” made things even worse.

  2. Also, is there some sort of law I don’t know about which requires school officials to justify their inanities not only pompously, but also ungrammatically?

  3. First I hate you, then I love you, then I hate you, then I love you, then I hate you, then I love you… (love you… this time!)

    I’ll remember this humorously biting post (except for that which was noted above… “But the school district administrator had neither the integrity, courage or common sense to do that, which permitted the fiasco to be passed on to the next spineless incompetent, and which also, I submit, tells us all we need to know about why public education in the U.S. is a disgrace.” – ALTHOUGH I do agree that our public education system IS a disgrace, but for other more important reasons than what you state) just in case the Las Cruces School System decides my Occupy shenanigans are a threat to student docility.

  4. To Michael’s point, how many public schools are there in the U.S.? How many students are educated (enrolled) by those public schools in the U.S.? How many “social networking” fiascos have there been? Do the positive situations get the same amount of attention as the negative?

    Your conclusion of what the administrators should have done would have resulted in a non-issue. Something that no one ever heard about or considered. Perhaps that is happening 10x a day currently, but those “heroes” can’t get the recognition for squashing something before it gets to this level. I challenge anybody to highlight an ethics hero for the inverse situation of this article.

    • I agree Tim! It is always the random situation that gets the press. We don’t hear of the positive because that is how it supposed to be. Heros are for the above and beyond. The majority of people are educated by the public institutions. Lots of productive people still coming out of those schools.

    • So there needs to be 100% incompetence before you’ll detect a problem? Gee, I never thought of the possibility that hundreds of kids may have met a governor and written snarky things about him on Twitter with no consequences at all.

      I think that any situation outside the norm or requiring common sense in the schools is more likely to be botched than not, and I think it is more likely that every one of these fiascos we hear about is backed by 100 equally awful ones that never make it to the media. Yes, many kids sail through, because they manage to avoid, by luck or guile, these kinds of situations. Nearly every parent I know has had one and usually more than one experience with a school that would have had me in the principle’s office with a machete. My own favorite: a private school teacher who called my wife and complained on behalf of a boy in my son’s class who was not invited to my son’s birthday party. She accused my son of bullying based on that.

      What’s an acceptable proportion of fools and cowards among teachers and administrators? 10%? 30%? 50%? I don’t know what the real proportion is, but will you accept the conclusion that it’s too high? And thus undermines the trustworthiness of the system as a whole?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.