An 18-year-old Kansas girl has avoided punishment after turning an off-hand, insulting tweet about the state's Republican Gov. Sam Brownback into a free speech issue.

Brownback's office announced in a Monday statement that he apologizes for the way his staff overreacted to the tweet after the Shawnee Mission School District said Monday it would not punish the high school senior for refusing to apologize for her disparaging diatribe.

My staff overreacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize, Brownback told The Associated Press via email on Monday. Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms.

Emma Sullivan, of the Fairway suburb of Kansas City, set off a national social media firestorm when she left a posting last week on Twitter during a class trip with Shawnee Mission East High School regarding Brownback.

Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot, the tweet read, despite the fact that she had not met the state's leader.

Brownback's office found the tweet and came down hard last week, contacting the school and demanding the posting be taken down.

The school sent a statement to the AP Monday saying it would not pursue any punishment for Sullivan.

Whether and to whom any apologies are issued will be left to the individuals involved, the statement said. The issue has resulted in many teachable moments concerning the use of social media. The district does not intend to take any further action on this matter.

The school's principal Karl Krawitz demanded that Sullivan write an apology letter to Brownback by Monday, but she declined, and posted other tweets defending her words as being protected as free speech.

Her decision not to write the letter was announced over the weekend on Twitter in a post that read, I've decided not to write the letter but I hope this opens the door for average citizens to voice their opinion & to be heard.

She told the AP Sunday that the tweet has turned into a good starting point to open up dialogue about this ... free speech and the power of social media and the power that people my age could potentially have, that people will listen to us.

Sullivan's Twitter followers have grown from less than 100 to more than 9,000 since the first posting and the media frenzy that ensued in its aftermath.