Police send Twitter comment case to attorney’s office for review

by Aaron Brom

ECM Sun Newspapers

The Rogers High School administration suspended three-sport athlete and team captain Reid Sagehorn for comments he made on the social media site, Twitter.

Sagehorn was suspended due to a comment attributed to him admitting that he kissed a teacher. That comment could be taken as a crime, whether it was meant to be a joke or not, Rogers Police Chief Jeff Beahen said.

“We sent the case down for review by the county attorney,” Beahen said.  “The case would be potentially criminal defamation. The student said something about a teacher that could have cost her career.”

Students showed up at a basketball game to protest Reid Sagehorn's suspension from school for a comment he made on Twitter.
Students showed up at a basketball game to protest Reid Sagehorn’s suspension from school for a comment he made on Twitter.

He said a teacher having a relationship with a student is a felony, so implying such was not taken lightly.

“The teacher is a victim, she’s being harassed,” he said.

Rogers High School students have vehemently defended Sagehorn, both in the social media world and at student protests. Thousands of “Free Reid” supporters have signed a petition circulating on change.org, urging the school district to reconsider the high school administration’s decision.

According to the petition, Sagehorn was suspended until April 22.

“This action was in response to a comment he made on Twitter in response to a rumor about him and a teacher,” the petition said. “The rumor was not true, and originated from an anonymous Twitter account that accepted and posted anything that was sent its way. The submissions were handled through the social media site ask.fm, which allows anonymous interaction between two people. Because of this, the person who started the rumor is unknown.”

The social media world was abuzz, and the matter even reached metro TV news coverage.

“Thank you for spreading the word!” one signer said. “We have signatures from Canada, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Honduras, Norway, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, and Afghanistan!”

Sagehorn is a captain of Rogers’ football and basketball teams, and also plays baseball.

The petition noted that this “excessive punishment” would prevent Sagehorn from finishing his final basketball season and would also preclude him from playing baseball his senior year.

“In addition, (Sagehorn) has been removed from National Honor Society and has been barred from stepping on school grounds or attending school-sponsored events,” the petition said. “He will be unable to attend the state DECA conference and will miss out on countless other school-related activities.”

The petition said that Rogers students have been quick to fight the removal “of their leader and role model.” A #freereid Twitter campaign has been circulating around the northwest metro, generating more than thousands of tweets. More than 3,000 people signed the petition to “Immediately restore the enrollment of Reid Sagehorn.”

The matter has generated much debate in other social media sites.

“The school is taking it way too far!!” said one facebook post.

Whereas others supported the decision to suspend Sagehorn: “I support the school. From now on that teacher (even though innocent) will be associated with, ‘Isn’t that the teacher that had something to do with the making out with a student incident?’ Their entire life is damaged now.”

A person on facebook who identified herself as a teacher said there is a lesson to be learned.

“Kids simply don’t get it,” the post said. “I struggle with what my own daughter’s post daily. Whether a post has a sexual undertone (that they don’t even realize) or a provocative pose (again not meaning to) it’s all about what or how a message is perceived.”

The petition urged Sagehorn’s supporters to attend the Feb. 18 school board meeting, but noted that district officials haven’t responded to requests for comment.

Chief Beahen said all the negative attention the situation has created “is causing more grief for the teaching staff.” He urged everyone to think twice before hitting the “send” button online.

“Did they know this would cause an uproar?” he said. “Probably not, but you can’t just put anything on your mind on a public website and not think there won’t be consequences.

We all wish this wouldn’t have happened, but the teacher is left out in the cold and that isn’t fair. She has rights, too.”

The Elk River Area School Board meets tonight with area legislators and has a work session tomorrow, but neither meeting has open forum.