So, 18 year old girl goes to an event where Sam Brownback is speaking. She tweets something mildly insulting to the Governor. Gov’s office overreacts by informing her school. School (via principal Krawitz) demands she write a letter of apology and goes so far as to suggest content. Governor immediately tries to step back on the whole issue (and does it well, IMHO - it really does come across as the actions of an overzealous staffer).
So far, so nothing, right? To me, this was a non-issue until this:
No! You fucking fucknut. No it isn’t. You are a government employee representing the (local) government. You have attempted to influence the speech of a citizen of the United States. Said citizen is 18 years old (and presumably able to vote). You owe your living to the taxpayers of your district and you have now used that position to attempt to control political speech. This issue may be many things (including a non-issue), but private it ain’t.
In the interest of full disclosure, I do not support Brownback’s positions on…pretty much anything. However, I would feel the same outrage if a Principal did the same thing regarding any politician. Principal does not equal dictator.
Having worked in several political offices and been on the fringes of a campaign, that doesn’t bother me. An office or campaign wouldn’t have time for anything else if they tried to react to every potential issue. I judge them by how they act after the issue gets legs and by my standard, Sam did all right.
while I think she’s a bit of a dimp for being a typical Twitter “slacktivist” (“OMG I so totally burned him! I accomplished something today LOL kekekeke!”) she has every right to say what she did and the principal is a massive douche hammer.
How a principal of a school deals with a student at that school is a private matter, not a public matter, and principals should not comment on these issues to the press.
The same would also apply to other government employees who deal with individual members of the public, e.g. doctors.
This all seems obvious and your point is specious.
[This is independent of whether the principal should have tried to get her to apologize to begin with. Personally I tend to the view that supressing rudeness at school events is somewhat on the border of free speech, and probably over the line. Regardless, it doesn’t seem like a bright idea on the part of the principal. But in any event, to the extent that the issue is whether his actions vis a vis the student are private or public, they are clearly private.]
Fotheringay-Phipps, I think your argument is weak from the fact that the principal’s dealings with the student were highly inappropriate. The student has a right to her opinion, especially on matters of representative government.
The principal was way out of line. His inappropriate behavior forced this issue from private to public.
As an example, imagine if he had given her a bare-assed spanking as punishment for this or any other real or wrong infraction.
Would he be able to bail out of that situation by claiming it was a* private *matter?
Once he “privately” attacked her citizen’s rights he should expect to lose all protection from that privacy.
As noted before, I think being publically rude to an elected official at a school function is beyond “expressing an opinion” and quite possibly beyond free speech rights. (What complicates this situation is that she apparently had not actually said anything to Brownback, and was just bluffing her friends. But other people took her claim at face value.)
But even if you’re right, that would not change things. That would just mean that the principal was wrong for contacting her. Looking at the public/private issue as an independent issue, I think he’s right.
The privacy is not about the school principal’s protection. It’s (mostly) about the student’s.
If a principal has a policy of publically commenting on the validity of or basis for disciplinary (or similar) action done to students, it will inevitably lead to providing a lot of background justification which will not show the students in a positive light and will infringe on their privacy. The only way to avoid this is to have a policy of refraining from such comment.
There’s nothing that prevented the student from commenting about it on her own, as indeed she did.
I write from a position of admitted ignorance with respect to the the duties and responsibilities of school principals, but is the above strictly true? If the principal were overstepping his bounds in some way — stifling the (for the sake of argument undoubted) rights of a student — then would it not become a matter of genuine public interest?
I suppose if it got to the point where the school board was involved - or law enforcement, if it was a really abusive situation - then it would become public by virtue of that. Even then, I would think the principal needs to be as circumspect as possible.
But as long as it’s between a principal and student, I would say it’s private.
Although again, that’s from the perspective of the principal commenting. I don’t think the student is constrained.
I’ll quibble with the terminology, Fotheringay-Phipps, neither in your hypothetical, nor in the case of the doctor is it ‘private’. It may be protected or privileged, but if you are accepting taxpayer money, your professional actions cannot and should not be ‘private’. In this case however, the legal adult (the student) involved waived her protection. The Principal needs to explain the reasoning behind his action*, if not to me, minimally to the School Board of his district.
*And then be fired - I believe in a fair trail followed by a first-class hanging - in some cases).
Correct me if I’m mistaken, RNATB, but my understanding had been that the function was of the type where attendance and participation are by invitation, and that the issuance of those those invitations was handled at the school district/school level. That is, Ms. Sullivan was selected by officials of her school and school district to attend and participate. To insist that it was “not a school function,” while technically accurate, strikes me as a not-particularly-compelling quibble.
Had Principal Krawitz simply called Ms. Sullivan into his office, shown her the message from the governor’s staffer, reminded her to not play with toys when she is representing her school at such an event, and then left it at that, this thread wouldn’t even exist.
I have already posted elsewhere what any letter(s) of apology should contain, if any are actually appropriate.
In reference to Fotheringay-Phipps’s claim that the principal’s action was private - that simply isn’t true.
It’s protected, in that the principal may not publish or advertise the matter without the express consent of the student and/or the student’s legal guardians. The student, on the other hand, is free to publicize, flog, whore out, tweet, or blab to whatever extent she likes.
The same is true of the physician/patient privilege and the attorney/client privilege. They exist to protect the privacy of the one who is seeking counsel or who is under the authority of another. Should the one being protected choose to waive that privilege, that’s their choice, but the doctor/attorney/authority cannot waive it without the client’s permission. Sometimes, in the case of attorneys, they can’t even do that.
On a less theoretical basis, the child was a brat. She had no business tweeting while participating in an event. She lied her little butt off, which is a poor indicator of character. That being said, the principal was completely out of bounds and should be handed over to the ACLU for a weeklong seminar on student rights, the difference between non-school related activities and school related activities, and his obligations as a school official to both make wise decisions regarding student discipline and not to completely fuck up his district’s legal budget. The seminar should consist of multiple ice-breaking activities and trust exercises.
And Sam Brownback should fire the idiot staff member who thought picking on an 18 year old girl (with a Twitter account) was a good idea.