Note to Kansas Gov. Brownback: Stop stalking teen-aged girls

No time at the moment to tell my story on this topic (the punchline of the thing that got me in trouble starts, ” . . . or next to Christopher Columbus, the greatest New Dealer of all time . . .”).

This has creeped me out for a couple of days, and it’s just getting more bizarre.

Gov. Sam Brownback and his staff were monitoring social internet activity and found a Tweet they didn’t like from a teen aged girl meeting with Brownback at that moment.

So, with no sense of irony of the Orwellian nature of what they were doing, Brownback and his staff complained to the school of the girl about what she wrote — which, while stupidly offensive, was nothing major.

Plus, the Governor’s office asked the school to discipline the girl.  Alas, the principal complied with the request.  (When do teachers and administrators stand up for their students?  Why not this time?)

Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said her office had forwarded a copy of Sullivan’s tweet to organizers of the school-sponsored event “so that they were aware what their students were saying in regards to the governor’s appearance.

Read more:

Did the governor’s staff keep copies of all the Tweets they monitored?  Did they suggest accolades for the kids who gushed over Brownback’s  . . . positions on the issues?

Wholly apart from the obvious free speech issues, which could well be decided against the girl since various courts have ruled students park most of their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse door (not religion, though), I was a little creeped out at someone professing to be an adult monitoring the teen’s Tweets for her friends.

What other teen aged girls is he monitoring?  What part of Kansas law gives him that authority?  Which borderline of “child abuse” or “stalking” did he really intend to walk?

Sam Brownback, stop stalking Kansas teenagers.  It’s ugly, and creepy, and it reveals you to be small . . . and creepy.

(Yes, I know — it technically doesn’t fall under the Kansas stalking law.  But Kansas stalking law didn’t anticipate cyber stalking, either.  A version of the Kansas statute, below the fold.)

Fortunately, adults are involved, and there is adult action and counseling.  Unfortunately, it’s the teen, Emma Sullivan, and her slightly older sister, who act like sober, wise adults (after the Tweet).  Brownback needs to start acting his age, and position.

Ms. Sullivan refuses to apologize as ordered.  More to come, surely.

Business and politics drift so slowly and amicably in Kansas that Brownback has time and thinks it worth the trouble to monitor Tweets from teenagers?  There’s a bigger judgment issue here than Emma’s little lapse of it.

Kansas’s stalking law:

Section 21-3438. STALKING. 1996.

(a) Stalking is an intentional, malicious and repeated following or harassment of another person and making a credible threat with the intent to place such person in reasonable fear for such person’s safety. Stalking is a severity level 10, person felony.

(b) Any person who violates subsection (a) when there is a temporary restraining order or an injunction, or both, in effect prohibiting the behavior described in subsection (a) against the same person, is guilty of a severity level 9, person felony.

(c) Any person who has a second or subsequent conviction occurring against such person, within seven years of a prior conviction under subsection (a) involving the same victim, is guilty of a severity level 8, person felony.

(d) For the purposes of this section: (1) “Course of conduct” means a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose and which would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and must actually cause substantial emotional distress to the person. Constitutionally protected activity is not included within the meaning of “course of conduct.”

(2) “Harassment” means a knowing and intentional course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, torments or terrorizes the person, and that serves no legitimate purpose.

(3) “Credible threat” means a verbal or written threat or a threat implied by a pattern of conduct or a combination of verbal or written statements and conduct made with the intent and the apparent ability to carry out the threat so as to cause the person who is the target of the threat to reasonably fear for such person’s safety.

The present incarceration of a person making the threat shall not be a bar to prosecution under this section.

Legislative Update:  Kansas’ protection from stalking act was signed into law on May 17, 2002.  Under the act, a stalking victim may file a verified petition for a civil protection from stalking order.   The parent or an adult residing with a minor may also seek relief on the child’s behalf.  A protection from stalking order shall remain in effect for up to one year, and may be extended for an additional year if a continuing threat of stalking is shown.   Knowingly or intentionally violating such an order is a class A person misdemeanor.   Applicable definitions, procedural requirements, and the relief available are set out in the act.  In addition, the act contains provisions prohibiting disclosure of the victim’s address and telephone number, and authorizing the issuance of ex parte, temporary orders, as well as allowing attorney fees to be awarded to the victim in any case in which a protection from stalking order is granted.

12 Responses to Note to Kansas Gov. Brownback: Stop stalking teen-aged girls

  1. […] Note to Kansas Gov. Brownback: Stop stalking teenaged girls […]


  2. Kansas’ descent into insane-land, Jim, started with their asinine anti-evolution bulls—.


  3. Redneck says:

    ” Not only did Brownback apologize for his staff’s over reaction, the school district said the girl does not have to apologize to him for her Tweet. ”

    Problem solved.

    I give the turds credit for admitting wrong and bowing out honorably.


  4. Jim says:

    Perhaps someone can shed some light for me on Kansas politics. Is this not the state that was home to Republicans like Alf Landon, James Pearson, Dwight Eisenhower, Nancy Kassebaum and Bob Dole?

    Did Kansas Republicans suddenly wake up one day and realize they were being drastically outdone in the crazy department by nieghboring Oklahoma, and — in the spirit of interstate competition — vow to be number one again?

    What happened?


  5. flatlander100 says:

    Not only did Brownback apologize for his staff’s over reaction, the school district said the girl does not have to apologize to him for her Tweet. The story did not say whether the school principal will have to take a refresher course in the First Amendment to keep his job.


  6. Ed Darrell says:

    Brownback apologized? My opinion of him has risen higher than I thought possible. Good on him.

    Now maybe the student might compose a note to him, thanking him.


  7. Ellie says:

    Just read on CNN that the Governor has apologized. “My staff overreacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize,” the Governor said. “Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms.”


  8. Ed Darrell says:

    Flatlander, it’s too bad you’re not the principal. It’s too bad you’re not the governor of Kansas.


  9. flatlander100 says:

    If the school has a policy about tweets during the school day, I can see her being subject to discipline for the act of tweeting during school. But not for the content of her Tweet [unless it violated some other prohibition, like being a threat, etc., which plainly it did not.]

    Is the school arguing that the student had (a) no right to think as she did of the governor? Or merely that, thinking as she did, (b) she had not right to express that opinion during school hours?

    But to be enforceable, a policy must be plainly stated. I’d be curious to see what plainly stated school policy regarding the content of her Tweet the school alleges she violated.

    Suppose, for example, she’d said the same thing while leaving the assembly hall, whispering it to a classmate, and a teacher overheard the whisper. Would she/could she have been subject to discipline for the content of her statement then? If not, why not?

    Or is the school arguing that the only thing that makes her subject to punishment if she refuses to apologize is that she made the comment in a forum [Twitter] that was accessible to the Governor’s thought police? That a similar comment about someone else, not an elected official, would have been fine and not subject to punishment?

    I feel sorry for the student and her classmates, since it seems she’s attending a school with an ass for a principal, and it’s very difficult to have a good school with a bad principal heading it.


  10. Ellie says:

    KGB….good one.


  11. I wasn’t aware that Kansas was part of the Soviet Union and the governor’s staff was the KGB.


  12. Ellie says:

    I appear to have lost my comment. I’ll try again.

    Wow! Kansas must have a real surplus to be able to spend money on monitoring the Twitter accounts of high school students. I’m impressed.

    Making a huge kerfuffle out of something stupid a teenager said (like that never happens?); I’m not so impressed.


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