CHICAGO (CN) – A Minnesota honors student will receive a $425,000 settlement after he was suspended for a tweet implying he “made out” with one of his high school teachers.
Reid Brazell Sagehorn will receive $425,000 to settle First Amendment and defamation claims against his former Minnesota school district, principal, superintendent, assistant superintendent and two police officers.
In 2014, he was a senior at Rogers High School in Rogers, Minnesota.
On website titled “Rogers confessions,” someone asked the question “Did @R_Sagehorn3 actually make out with [name of female teacher]?” Sagehorn tweeted the response, “Actually yes.”
He says his tweet was a joke.
The school, however, took it very seriously.
It suspended Sagehorn, an honors student and captain of both the football and basketball teams, for five days after a parent raised concerns to the school. The suspension was extended, expulsion was threatened, and Superintendent Mark Bezik told his parents “a hearing would be meaningless and the outcome was preordained.”
Faced with the expulsion, Sagehorn withdrew from school and got his diploma from another high school. He now attends college out of state.
Rogers Police Chief Jeffrey Beahen told various media sources at the time that Sagehorn’s conduct was criminal and he could face felony charges.
The incident caused an uproar within the school’s community, with an outpouring of support for the honor student-athlete.
U.S. District Judge John Tunheim denied defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings in August.
The judge said that even though the comment was made outside of a school, “First Amendment protections also apply in a school setting,” and that there was a “stark contrast between Sagehorn’s speech and speech that would now be considered obscene.”
Tunheim further noted that Sagehorn “was coerced and intimidated into withdrawing, and therefore did not waive his right to procedural due process.”
Sagehorn’s attorney Paul Dworak told the Star Tribune, “Reid’s very happy with the outcome of this case and looking forward to being a normal college student and putting this behind him.”
The school district noted that it did not admit any wrongdoing as part of the settlement, and made its decision based on financial considerations.
In a statement Tuesday, the school said it “continues to believe that it acted appropriately and in the best interests of all students and staff.”
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