Student Sues Over Suspension For Two Word Tweet

Two words have probably never generated more legal controversy than those “tweeted” by Reid Sagehorn in January 2014.  Then a high school senior, Mr. Sagehorn tweeted the words “Actually yes” in response to a tweet about whether he “made out” with a teacher from his school.

The tweet caught the attention of Mr. Sagehorn’s school, and although Mr. Sagehorn tried to explain that the tweet was intended as a joke and not to be taken seriously, the school suspended Mr. Sagehorn for several weeks until his parents eventually agreed to withdraw him from the school and enroll him somewhere else for the remainder of his senior year.

Mr. Sagehorn hired an attorney and filed a lawsuit against the school on First Amendment grounds in June 2014.  The complaint seeks attorneys fees, punitive damages, and the expungement of all discipline from Mr. Sagehorn’s official school record.  More than a year later and the U.S. District Court in which the complaint was filed has ruled that there is adequate evidence for the case to move forward.  Rejecting the school’s request for summary judgment, Judge John Tunheim stated:

“In sum, the Court concludes that Sagehorn has adequately pleaded a First Amendment claim. The School Defendants have not demonstrated that Sagehorn’s speech caused a substantial disruption, was obscene, was lewd or vulgar, or was harassing. Therefore, the School Defendants have not defeated Sagehorn’s claim by showing that they were permitted to regulate his speech.”

We will provide further updates on this case as it progresses.  In the mean time, be mindful of the impact that your online speech is capable of.