A Rogers High School senior’s suspension from school until April 22 for allegedly sending out an inappropriate tweet has set off a furor in the north metro Elk River Area School District.
Reid Sagehorn, 17, responded via Twitter to an anonymous account’s tweet accusing him of an inappropriate relationship with a teacher, according to an online petition protesting his suspension. Sagehorn replied, “Actually, yes,” the petition said, the tweet that apparently sparked his suspension.
The alleged relationship was “totally a rumor and false,” said Caleb Reese, a junior at Rogers High and friend of Sagehorn. Its tone was meant to be sarcastic and to dismiss the rumor, Reese said.
But school leaders did not take Sagehorn’s tweet as a joke.
District schools were closed Monday and high school administrators could not be reached. Superintendent Mark Bezek said he could not speak to Sagehorn’s case specifically and that disciplinary action is usually decided on the school level. However, he added, “I feel bad for everyone that’s involved in this.”
Bezek said he’d advise parents to “pay closer attention to [social media] sites your children are visiting and participating in.”
Sagehorn is captain of the school’s football and basketball teams, said Reese, a teammate. “He’s a great leader,” Reese said, adding that he “puts everyone ahead of himself.”
By Monday evening, the online petition had garnered almost 3,700 signatures. Some supporters took to Twitter with the hashtag #freereid to express their support of Sagehorn. Because he will miss about two months of school, he may be forced to enroll at another high school, the petition said.
Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the Minnesota branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is not directly involved in the case, said he believes the school is treating Sagehorn unfairly.
“This is a step too far — students have rights,” he said. “If the only thing that is driving this is a stupid tweet, then shame on the school.
“If we were asked [to become involved], we would be highly interested, because we have felt for years that there’s an incredible lack of due process toward students,” he said.
School board member Sue Farber said she has received numerous e-mails about the situation. She said that while the school board is aware of the suspension, its members are not involved in student discipline.
Farber said a Tuesday night school board work session with legislators is open to the public, but that no public comments will be taken at that session. However, citizens can talk to school board members privately before or after the session, Farber said.
Danielle Dullinger is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.