Civil Liberties

School Tried to Expel a Student For Tweeting Two Words About Kissing a Teacher: 'Actually, Yeah.'

High school kids have free speech rights, too.



A Minnesota student who had to transfer high schools to avoid an expulsion for an incredibly short, wholly inoffensive Tweet can sue the district for violating his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, a federal judge ruled.

The student, Reid Sagehorn, first landed himself in trouble with Elk River School District administrators in January of 2014, according to Education Week. He was asked on an internet message board whether he had made out with a certain 28-year-old teacher at Rogers High School; he tweeted his two-word answer: "actually, yeah." Sagehorn later claimed that he was joking.

Superintendent Mike Bezek didn't think the Tweet was funny. Sagehorn was initially suspended for five days. His punishment was then increased to 10 days, but dragged on for weeks. He eventually transferred schools to avoid expulsion.

Sagehorn was an honors student and captain of the Rogers football team before he transferred.

As if the ruin of Sagehorn's academic life wasn't enough, Police Chief Jeffrey Beahan told media outlets that the teenager could face felony charges. District officials argued that the tweet was obscene.

That's utter nonsense, of course. Sagehorn's mildly suggestive statement about kissing a teacher doesn't even come close to crossing the line into obscenity territory.

Sagehorn is now suing the school district and police chief. Last week, a federal judge declined to dismiss the suit, ruling that it should proceed. That's good news for Sagehorn—who will likely be compensated for damages in an eventual settlement—and very bad news for the bullying authority figures who made his life miserable for no good reason. Teens don't lose the right to say stupid things merely because everything is offensive to edu-crats.