Education Law

Student suspended for 7 weeks over 2-word tweet sues police and school officials

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A onetime Minnesota high school honor student who ignited a firestorm by tweeting the answer “actually, yeah” in response to a question on an online confession page admittedly made a mistake.

But so did police and school officials, says Reid Sagehorn, now an 18-year-old graduate of another high school, in a federal lawsuit (PDF). Filed Tuesday, it names as defendants the Elk River School District and the chief of the Rogers Police Department, among others, alleging violation of Sagehorn’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights

The question asked whether he had “made out” with a particular teacher. Sagehorn said he answered “actually, yeah” sarcastically, intending to make a joke and not realizing that the two-word tweet might be taken seriously, according to KARE and the Star Tribune.

He soon learned otherwise, as he was called into the principal’s office and told his conduct might be considered a crime, another Star Tribune article reported earlier.

Sagehorn was eventually suspended for seven weeks for “threatening, intimidating, or assault of a teacher, administrator or other staff member,” the suit says. A National Honor Society member with a 3.8 grade point average, Sagehorn was captain of both the football and basketball teams at Rogers High School. Aside from a parking ticket, he told the Star Tribune in February, he had never been in trouble before.

In addition to monetary damages, the suit seeks policy changes to protect other students in the future and expungement of Sagehorn’s suspension from his record, KARE reports.

It contends his out-of-school post was not threatening or disruptive. Sagehorn, however, has been falsely and publicly accused of criminal activity, had his privacy invaded and his future educational and employment opportunities damaged, the suit alleges.

Reached by the Star Tribune, Superintendent Mark Bezek said he was stunned to be sued but declined to comment substantively, noting that he hadn’t yet been served.

“Technical changes are happening so fast that it’s impossible to keep up,” Bezek told the newspaper in March. “Kids are living in a world without consequences and boundaries.”

The articles don’t include comment from others named as defendants.

See also:

New York Daily News: ”Honor student, star athlete starts school after 7-week suspension over suggestive tweet about teacher”

Updated June 20 to clarify that the question on the confession page asked about a particular teacher.

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