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Teen sues Minnesota police chief and school over Twitter-invoked suspension

Rogers High School
Rogers High School web site

Reid Sagehorn is a high school student in Minnesota who has filed a lawsuit against his hometown’s police chief and his school district. Sagehorn claims that his First Amendment rights were violated. The assertion that his First Amendment rights were trampled upon comes from a situation in which the teen was suspended from school over a message he sent on Twitter, according to Fox News on Wednesday.

Sagehorn received his suspension from Elk River School District after he is said to have responded to an anonymous tweet which said he had kissed a young gym teacher at Rogers High School. Sagehorn thought that the tweet about the kiss was a joke and he sarcastically replied to the message. His response to the tweet was “Actually yes.” After a parent had seen the message on Twitter, the parent reported the tweeted messages to authorities.

Following the report, the incident was investigated by local authorities for the potential criminal defamation charges. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, however, refused to press charges because the evidence in the case was lacking. Additionally, authorities also have confirmed that there was absolutely no inappropriate relationship between Sagehorn and the teacher, according to the Star Tribune.

Even though prosecutors did not move forward with the case, at issue is the fact that the school district suspended the teen for five days for violating a school policy which guards against threatening, intimidating or assault of a teacher, administrator, or other member of the school staff. The lawsuit also says that the school district extended the suspension to ten days from the five days that were initially given, and the district moved for an expulsion of Sagehorn. These actions resulted in the teen needing to enroll in a different high school just four months prior to his graduation.

The community has been in vast support of Sagehorn and against the school district’s actions. However, attorneys and experts say that the actions of the school district could have had merit as the alleged incident of the kiss could have been a distraction at the school. For one thing, sarcasm – when written – can be perceived differently than when spoken. Proof is that the parent who first reported the tweet didn’t read sarcasm into the message. This parent saw the tweet about the kiss as a fact. The case continues in court as Sagehorn is looking for monetary damages and to get his legal expenses covered in the lawsuit.

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