Monday, February 24, 2014

Kids Just Wanna Have Fun

There are days when I think the United States is just a larger version of Chelm. Now, some of you will automatically chuckle at that reference, others will scratch their heads, so let me clue you in're supposed to chuckle.

The town of Rogers, Minnesota, will forever be remembered as the town that suspended an academic, athlete, all-star kinda kid over a tweet. An anonymous tweet said that said senior had kissed a teacher. And said senior, in a typical teenage response, replied, "Actually, yeah," believing that in cyberspace people could see his eyes rolls and hear the sarcasm in his voice. Unfortunately, they did not and what happened next defies parental imagination. 

Several days later, the kid, Reid Sagehorn, is hauled into the principal's office:
He said he had no idea why he was called to the school office, where the principal, athletic director and police liaison officer were waiting for him. A parent had called the office, he said he was told, upset about a possibly inappropriate relationship between Sagehorn and a teacher.
Asked how he felt leaving the principal’s office, he said, “Not really scared. Shocked!”  
Paul Levy - Star Tribune - February 24, 2014
Chief Beahen
The kid wrote a letter of apology to the teacher. The kids who posted the original anonymous tweet came forward to apologize. The teacher herself came forward to say nothing happened. But that didn't stop the crack local chief of police, Jeff Beahen, from telling the kid...and the world....that he might be brought up on felony charges. Of course, he backtracked later and said the most would be a gross misdemeanor. But really, how could that have even come out of his mouth? 

Where was the superintendent of schools, a guy who as a superintendent of schools oughta know better? All Superintendent Mark Bezek can come up with is, "I feel bad for everyone." ???????

Look, Reid's tweet was a stupid way to respond to the anonymous tweet, but we're talking about a teenage boy here:

  • Was there any inappropriate touching? According to the teacher, no. 
  • Was there any bullying? No. 
  • Were there any weapons involved? No. 
  • Was there a bomb threat? No. 
  • Was there at any time a threat to commit bodily harm? No. 
  • Was there intent to commit any harm whatsoever? No. 

Picketers outside the school
What is the matter with those people? Are they so stupid that they let this explode into an international incident with teenagers across the globe signing petitions to Free Reid? Are these people suffering from some sort of dementia?

We cannot manage to pass school policies to deal with guns or bullying ....but we can throw a teenager out of school for saying...not actually kissing.... a teacher.  Wow.

Hey! I survived two teenage sons. I know how this works. There are times they're gonna do and say stupid stuff; it comes with the territory.

However, two things come immediately to mind: the press and the government. 

The press gets a hold of something like Reid Sagehorn's tweet and runs with it. It gets magnified, amplified, and gives a whole lotta people their very own 15 minutes of fame...which turns into a whole month load of for the police chief who was gonna charge the kid with a felony. That is going to follow Chief Beahen around for a long, long time. Instead, there are headlines like "Minnesota high school student boasts about teacher sexual conquest on Twitter" (Star Tribune) and what should've been quietly handled in the principal's office with the kid, the parents, and the teacher is now a cautionary tale on what not to do.  

As for the government...well, in this case it's the local version of government - the school board. The Elk River Area School District has some serious thinking to do about not only how this escaped into cyberspace, but perhaps more importantly how they are going to respond to social media and the problems that come with it. The district has not been immune to those issues; there have been suicides in the past and they have worked hard on suicide prevention. But these are still teenage students who are going to act like teenage students.

But even with all the serious stuff that comes with a being teenager, there is also a pretty good dose of the ridiculous that comes with age, hormones, and breathing. Teenagers say stupid things and just because stuff falls outta their mouths, it doesn't mean the kid is all evil. No one is suggesting that Reid Sagehorn shouldn't write an apology to the teacher, but throwing him out of school for this? It makes no sense. 

And it sends all the wrong messages. It drives kids further underground. They stop expressing themselves out of fear. You want kids with no sense of humor? No ability to laugh at themselves and then know how to recognize when stuff crosses the line? 

How do any kids ever learn about right and wrong, self-editing, and social interaction unless they are allowed to make mistakes? That's not to condone bullying, but kids need to say stupid things to each other...and then apologize for it. Teachable moments are important and kids have to have them. 

Police chiefs, superintendents, and parents really need to recognize them and use them appropriately. This was not appropriate use of a teachable moment. 

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Never go in the water unless you've already learned how to swim.
                                                                                     Kuni of Chelm


  1. I became an official member of the National Sarcasm Society, if there really is such a thing, when I bought a little magnetic plaque with their name on it at a gift shop (not in Minnesota), and the saying beneath said "Like we need your help!". I still cannot look at it without laughing.

    Now that I have been in Minnesota for 5+ years after a lifetime in the northeastern US (Boston), I can tell you that Minnesotans at least in the suburbs do NOT *get* sarcasm. I learned this right away when I moved here, spoke to groups (of adults) and repeatedly had to explain little jokes - "Um, that was supposed to be funny", I would inform the confused-looking attendees. Which then gave them permission to laugh, so then they laughed.

    I love Minnesota but people, visit another region of the country every now and then. It will do you good.

    My only hope is that Reid's generation will save their elders here by embracing sarcasm even more fully. I hope this incident, which now the papers and media are sad to see resolved, does not scare them aware from being sarcastic and using sarcasm. The world needs them to do so!

  2. I feel like breaking into a song- maybe Dionne Warwick.... "what the WORLD needs NOW, is sarcasm, sweet sarcasm."
    honestLy.... like for the police chief who was gonna charge the kid with a felony. That is going to follow Chief Beahen around for a long, long time. ....

    One day some kids will be walking downtown and see 'The Chief'... "hey Chief, Willie here wouldn't share his doritos with me. That's a felony, ain't it?! hahaha"

    yeah.....consequences can be fun