Robert Bennett and Paul Dworak filed a civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Reid Sagehorn, the former honor student and two-sport varsity captain who was suspended, expelled, and forced to withdraw from Rogers High School because of a two-word, sarcastic tweet he posted outside of school hours, off school grounds, and without using any school property. Robert Bennett and Paul Dworak sued the school district, superintendent, assistant superintendent, and the principal for violating Reid’s First Amendment right to free speech, and they also sued the Rogers Police Chief for defaming Reid by falsely and continuously reporting to the media that Reid, a minor at the time, committed a crime punishable by up to a felony.
The lawsuit received attention from news outlets, law professors, and school administrators around the country, and around the world, because of the hot-button legal and social media issues involved.
The defendants each filed motions asking the Court to dismiss the lawsuit. In a 45-page opinion, U.S. District Chief Judge Tunheim rejected all of the school defendants’ arguments and held that Reid’s constitutional claims against the school defendants and his defamation claim against the police chief were supported by the law and were to proceed. Defendants subsequently settled the matter for a total of $425,000. For more information on this case, visit the StarTrib, the SPLC, and City Pages.