Suspended Shakopee High athlete will get to wrestlePublished 12:22pm Thursday, October 24, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota high school athlete who was suspended over a tweet has dropped his push for a court order that would allow him to compete after learning he’ll be allowed to wrestle this season.
Tyson Leon, a 16-year-old football player and wrestler at Shakopee High School, had argued that his tweet about “drilling” his teammates was about tackling opponents and wasn’t a threat. But he said the suspension from sports was hurting his chances of getting a wrestling scholarship to attend college.
A school district attorney said in court Tuesday that his suspension was only for football and that he would still be able to wrestle. On Wednesday, the judge ordered a mediation hearing. Afterward, both sides said a deal had been reached confirming that he’ll be allowed to wrestle.
Leon’s family said the suspension was hurting his chances of getting a wrestling scholarship for college and violated his constitutional rights.
The student sent a tweet in August that said, “Im boutta drill my ‘teammates’ on Monday.” Leon said the tweet simply meant he would tackle his opponents at practice, his attorney, Meg Kane, said Wednesday.
School officials did not call police over the tweet.
According to court documents, an Aug. 29 letter from the school district notified Leon that he had violated district rules and he was ineligible for football this year for “threatening to harm members of the football team.” The letter also said he was ineligible because he swore at the football coach and activities director, slammed and broke a door, and has three prior suspensions from sports for other violations.
Leon’s prior suspensions were for violations including alcohol use and fighting.
Leon’s parents sued the school district, the Minnesota State High School League, and school and league officials earlier this month, claiming Leon’s constitutional rights were violated. The lawsuit sought a court order that would allow Leon to participate in varsity athletics while the case is pending.
According to Kane and information in the lawsuit, the incident that led to the recent suspension began when a coach found a cellphone and saw a text sent to Leon that referenced smoking. Kane said officials pulled Leon off the football bus and question him. Leon denied using tobacco, but because he was agitated, school officials said he could not go to the scrimmage.
“He got quite upset,” Kane said. Leon then swore at the coach, forcefully opened the door and left the room, she said.
Officials met with Leon and his parents two days later and showed them a printed copy of his Twitter account. The complaint said the message at issue was a private message sent to another student.
Kane claims school officials violated Leon’s rights to freedom of speech, privacy and his right to be free from unlawful seizure. The complaint also said the school district singled Leon out because he is Native American.
In a statement Wednesday, Shakopee Public Schools Superintendent Rod Thompson said all student athletes and their parents or guardians must sign a form agreeing to abide by certain expectations.
Thompson said this isn’t a case about social media or Twitter.
“This is a case challenging the premise that participation in athletics or activities is a fundamental right entitled to all students rather than a privilege,” he said.