ROGERS, Minn. - The Rogers High School student suspended after posting what he called a sarcastic tweet involving a teacher has filed a lawsuit against the school district, the superintendent and Principal of Rogers High School and the Rogers Police Chief, among others.
Reid Sagehorn is seeking monetary damages and other forms of legal relief, alleging that those named in the lawsuit violated his constitutional rights by suspending, expelling and forcing him to withdraw from Rogers High School four months before he was due to graduate. Sagehorn also accuses Rogers Police Chief Jeffrey Beahen of defaming him.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court Tuesday, asks that any references to Sagehorn being suspended or expelled be expunged from his record, and that the Rogers School District change its policies and procedures so no student will have to go through what he did.
Raleigh Levine, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law who specializes in the first amendment, said cases like Reid's involving social media and school discipline is happening across the country.
"I think schools not only in Minnesota but all over the country are looking at these cases again because there hasn't been any kind definitive guidance from the Supreme Court," Levine said.
After reviewing the lawsuit Levine thinks the case is a slam dunk for Sagehorn.
"The facts are particularly bad for the school because there's not threatening behavior here…the only disruption from speech came because of the school's extreme reaction to it," Levine said.
Superintendent Mark Bezek told KARE 11 he had no comment because he had not seen the lawsuit. Police Chief Jeff Beahen could not be reached for comment.
Sagehorn found himself in the headlines in January of 2014 when he was named in a message on a website called "Roger Confessions' that asked whether he made out with a female physical education teacher at Rogers High School. When he responded with what he calls a sarcastic post that read "Actually Yeah", a Rogers parent saw the post and called principal Roman Pierskalla, who called Sagehorn down to speak with him and a Rogers Police Officer.
Sagehorn was suspended for five days for causing damage to a teacher's reputation.Eventually that suspension was extended another five days, and then morphed into an expulsion. Sagehorn and his attorneys maintain that the post was done out of school, did nothing to disrupt school activities, or constitute a threat to the teacher or her reputation.
The plaintiff alleges that the actions of the defendants have forever linked his name with criminal activity, took away his right to privacy and free speech, inflicted mental anguish and negatively impacted his future educational and occupational opportunities.
He is requesting a jury trial.