A sarcastic two-word tweet backfires on student
Reid Sagehorn was an honor roll student and a football and basketball co-captain at Rogers High School in Minnesota. The 17-year-old senior became aware of a rumor about him kissing one of the gym teachers at school. The post asked if Reid had “made out” with the 28-year-old teacher. Reid tweeted back saying “Actually, yes.”
The school claimed Reid violated the district’s code of conduct for social media, even though his tweet was outside of school hours, off school grounds, not at a school event and without using school property. Reid was suspended for seven weeks for his Twitter response. The teacher was questioned by the police and cleared of any improprieties. The local prosecutor also declined to file any charges due to insufficient evidence of criminal activity. Reid transferred to another school and is on track to graduate this spring.
Reid apologized in writing to the teacher. He commented “I’ve learned my lesson and I am truly sorry. I just want to move on with my life.” Reid has been accepted to North Dakota State University in the fall and regrets missing out on his senior prom and baseball season this semester at his old school.
This is a hard lesson for an unintentional tweet. Thinking ahead of possible consequences to anything you post online is crucial.
Update: In August, 2015, a federal judge ruled that Reid could proceed with his lawsuit against the school alleging his First Amendment rights were violated. The judge wrote in his decision the following:
“School defendants do not get the benefit of the doubt merely because the Supreme Court has not specifically authored a decision on this issue,” he wrote. “The law is sufficiently clear that on facts such as the complaint alleges in this case—a student using personal property to make non-threatening speech off-campus, that in no way impacts or disrupts the school environment—a student would have a clearly established right to free speech.”
In December, 2015, Reid and his lawyers reached an out-of-court settlement with the school district. The reported amount of the settlement is $450,000.00.