Reid Sagehorn sues following suspension from Rogers High for tweet about kissing teacher
In late January, somebody posted this tweet on an online forum called "Roger confessions" -- "did @R_Sagehorn3 actually make out with [name of female school teacher]."
Reid Sagehorn himself sarcastically replied, "Actually yeah." A suspension and school transfer later, Sagehorn is now suing Rogers Police Chief Jeff Beahen, Elk River School District Superintendent Mark Bezek, Rogers High School Principal Roman Pierskalla, Assistant Superintendent Jana Henne-Burr, and police liaison Stephen Sarazin in federal court for the allegedly overzealous way they handled his punishment.
We detailed the backstory in this post.
The lawsuit itself contains a few new interesting details. For one, it discusses how, on February 5, two days after Principal Pierskalla and Officer Sarazin first made Sagehorn aware that they knew of his social media post, Sagehorn went to the girls locker room to visit the office of the teacher in question and apologize. But she wasn't there, and Sagehorn eventually had to content himself with writing her a letter of apology instead.
The suit also talks about how after administrators decided to suspend Reid until April 22, Superintendent Bezek and Assistant Superintendent Hennen-Burr allegedly threatened Sagehorn with expulsion for the rest of the school year if he and his family requested a hearing about the suspension in front of a hearing officer.
"Superintendent Bezek and Assistant Superintendent Hennen-Burr represented to the Sagehorns at the meeting that any expulsion, particular one to the end of the year, would likely cause North Dakota State University to retract its acceptance of Reid for the Fall 2014," the lawsuit says. "Further draconian consequences were implied and understood by the Sagehorns."
Allegedly compelled by threats of that sort, Sagehorn and his family eventually signed a document stating, "We agree that Reid will be withdrawn from school from February 14, 2014-April 17, 2014." He later transferred to another high school to finish out the school year.
The lawsuit accuses the aforementioned officials of violating Sagehorn's constitutional rights. Sagehorn's lawyers -- Robert Bennett, Joseph Friedberg, and Ron Rosenbaum -- are seeking a jury trial and unspecified financial damages.
Asked how much they're seeking, Bennett tells us, "That's the jury's purview." With regard to whether a settlement is possible before it gets to that point, he says, "Theoretically, that's possible."
The lawsuit also takes aim at the law enforcement officers involved for forwarding police reports about Sagehorn's social media post to the Hennepin County Attorney's Office for possible criminal charges, and for saying on the record that such charges could be forthcoming. (Police Chief Beahen later admitted he "erred" in doing so, according to the suit.)
"Reid Sagehorn's conduct did not constitute a crime," the lawsuit says. "Nor would it be reasonable for a trained officer to believe that Reid's conduct constituted a crime."
The specific charges include First Amendment violations, supervisory liability, unconstitutional custom and pattern of practice, Fourteenth Amendment violations, and defamation. To read the court filing for yourself, click to page two.
-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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