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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

#heblowsalot update: the fallout

Both the principal, Karl Krawitz, and Emma Sullivan are receiving all kinds of negative attention as result of the Brownback apology affair. Krawitz has apparently received some death threats from different parts of the country, while Sullivan is being bullied by peers who call her an attention whore, or just a whore, and demand that she be expelled from school
The bullying, much of which is taking place on Twitter, is part of the reason that Sullivan was staying home from school on Tuesday. “They’ve been sending me tweets, calling me an attention whore, saying this is all about fame and that I don’t deserve to be getting any of these interviews,” she said. 
A Twitter hashtag set up against her contains numerous expletives, including one user, @PoundShop_Zoe, who calls her a “whore” multiple times. “When Emma Comes back she should be forced to go to north #HopeYourHappy… Whore,” he writes
“Get Emma Sullivan out of East [Shawnee Mission East High School] please #teamkrawitz,” adds @megmms
In fact, students have organized a rally Tuesday afternoon in support of her principal, Karl Krawitz, and in opposition to her, said Sullivan.
I'm actually more surprised by this bullying than by the death threats. Death threats from far-off places have become a ubiquitous response to any bad behavior that is published on the internet. There never seems to be a shortage of people with web access who find it appropriate to express their displeasure with someone in the news for doing a bad thing by issuing threats against that person's life, and that's probably all that this is. I assume however that this knowledge, even if Dr. Krawitz has it, is of no particular comfort to him.

The behavior of Sullivan's schoolmates is surprising only because they are easily identifiable and close. I imagine that they are jealous of her limelight, however unintentionally earned, and also convinced that the school principal is someone who must be respected at all costs. They are probably big “school spirit” types who believe that their collective reputation has been tarnished by a student saying rude things about the governor and drawing negative attention to the school as a whole…even though it was actually the principal’s demand for a letter of apology that thrust this situation into the news in the first place.

And they are incapable of recognizing that Krawitz might be a good principal who made a very bad decision, much less that believing he’s a good principal doesn’t require saying that Sullivan is a whore who should be expelled. That requires a level of nuance that appears to be quite beyond them. As is, ironically, an awareness of how public speech on the internet really can be-- something Sullivan will now likely never forget.

If Sam Brownback really wanted to show that he "treasures" freedom of speech, he could send a message directly to these students in support of Sullivan and strongly condemning any harassment of her for her use of and defense of that freedom. Want to make any bets on whether something like that will happen?

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