Minnesota student could face felony for tweet

Typically when we hear about cyber bullying we think about students bullying other students. But a recent incident in Rogers, Minnesota, shows that teachers, too, can be bullied on the Internet. A well-liked student athlete could now face felony charges for his involvement in the Internet scandal.

The scandal involves a tweet made from the student’s Twitter account, which suggested that the student had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a 28-year-old Elk River Area School District teacher. Graphic comments about the teacher were also made on an anonymous “confessions” web site that was created by Rogers students.

The Rogers police chief said the tweet and the claims on the website were “like screaming ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater or ‘I have a bomb’ on an airplane.” The teacher was subsequently interviewed by officers and it was determined that the online comments were meant to be sarcastic.

District officials decided to suspend the 17-year-old student athlete for more than two months as punishment for his online comment. The police chief said the case has been handed over to the Hennepin County attorney’s office, which could decide to charge the student with a felony, misdemeanor or disorderly conduct for the tweet.

“If you say something on a very public forum, there are consequences. This young, innocent teacher is the victim here,” the police chief said.

The Internet and social media didn’t exist just a few years ago, so these are developing areas of law within juvenile delinquency. However, what young people need to know is that their schools and local police departments take claims made on the Internet very seriously.

Unfortunately, one big mistake online can lead to many serious consequences and negative effects on a teen’s future. That’s why it’s important to seek the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer after a juvenile has been charged with an Internet crime or any other crime. 

Source: Star Tribune, “Social media use at heart of controversy and protest at Rogers High School,” Paul Walsh and Paul Levy, Feb. 19, 2014

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