A high school student is suing his district and police chief after he was suspended for a sarcastic online comment about making out with a teacher.
Reid Sagehorn was suspended from Rogers High School in Rogers, Minn., when he replied “Actually, yeah,” online in response to a question asking if he had “made out” with a 28-year-old teacher, and school officials saw the post.
He clarified the comment was not meant to be taken seriously and said he was not in a relationship with the teacher. But he was initially suspended five days for damaging a teacher’s reputation. The suspension was later extended to 10 days and then nearly two months, amid protests.
Now Sagehorn is suing his school district and the chief of police for compensation on the grounds his First and 14th Amendment rights were violated when he was forced to leave the school, reports the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. It notes that he is a minor, and the post wasn’t made during school hours or on school grounds or with school property.
Sagehorn’s conduct “in no way constituted threatening, intimidating or assault of a teacher, administrator or other staff member, and any reasonable school official or police officer would understand that to be the case,” reads the suit.
School superintendent Mark Bezek admitted months ago the school had gotten into “uncharted waters” in disciplining Sagehorn, but said Tuesday morning he was shocked by the lawsuit. ”There’s been no papers served,” he said. “I’m trying to decipher what this is.”
In January, Sagehorn was a member of the National Honor Society and captain of his school’s football and basketball teams, and had already been accepted to North Dakota State University. But the suit claims by February Sagehorn had lost his positions on the baseball and basketball teams and suffered shame, humiliation and mental anguish.
He announced he would transfer to St. Michael-Albertville High School in February, and apologized for the post. ”I think it’s definitely important that everybody who has heard about the story know how sincerely sorry I am. No matter how I meant it, [it] doesn’t matter,” he said.
The lawsuit said the situation made his senior year a nightmare.
And though the 18 year old was never charged with a crime, he said in the suit that his name “is forever linked with the term ‘felony.’” In mid-February, Beahen said that Sagehorn could face felony charges for his post but days later said he was wrong about that.
One of Sagehorn’s lawyers, Joe Friedberg, asked, “How do Reid and his family overcome the hurt to his reputation?”