Statements from Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and the Shawnee Mission School District Monday certainly doused the flames of controversy that erupted over SM East senior Emma Sullivan’s unflattering tweet about the governor. But now one district mother is leading an expedition to sift through the ashes.
Kathy Cook, executive director of Kansas Families for Education and the mother of a district junior, used the open forum at Monday’s board of education meeting to request copies of any communication that may have occurred between district officials and SM East principal Karl Krawitz prior to the meeting where he told Sullivan she should write an apology to the governor.
Cook told the board she wanted to know if any political pressure had led to a decision to “lean on an 18 year old senior,” or whether the “district’s financial solvency was threatened.”
After the meeting, district spokeswoman Leigh Anne Neal said it would be up to the board and superintendent Gene Johnson to determine whether to make any relevant records available. Cook said she was prepared to file a Freedom of Information Act request for the documents if the district denied her request.
“We need to know exactly how the chain of events occurred,” said Cook. “I’ve known Dr. K for several years, and I find it difficult to believe he didn’t know what her rights were. It might have just been a bad day for Dr. K, or there might have been pressure from elsewhere in the district. We need to find out.”
Neal said that, to the best of her knowledge, Krawitz had been made aware of Sullivan’s tweet directly by the district’s Youth in Government liaison, who is also the district’s social studies resource teacher.
Cook said she would give the district a couple of days to comply with the request voluntarily before she proceeded with the FOIA request.
Sullivan’s sister Olivia told PVPost.com via email that Krawitz had spoken with their father Monday to let him know “he wants to move forward and will not make her write the letter.”
Meanwhile, Gov. Brownback was still taking lumps on his Facebook page Monday night, where more than 400 people had commented — mostly negatively — under his statement on the issue.