High school player suspended for tweet

The creeping — and creepy — intrusion of business and government on people’s private personal Twitter musings has taken a step forward in Wisconsin where a high school volleyball player has been suspended for using profanity in a tweet on her personal account.

April Gehl, of Hilbert High School’s volleyball squad, tweeted “eat ****, WIAA” when reacting to a memo from the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association urging an ends to chants — like “airball” — at sporting events.

So she was suspended for five games.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Gehl told the Appleton Post Crescent. “I was like, ‘Really? For tweeting my opinion?’ I thought it was ridiculous.”

“I was thinking, ‘How did they get it so quickly?’” Jill Gehl said of the WIAA seeing her daughter’s tweet. “Sure, what she said wasn’t the right words and wasn’t the best thing to do. I wasn’t real upset with her because there have been a lot more worse things said on Facebook and Twitter to specific people. This to me was more of a general response to an organization per se, not an individual. So, sure, I’m upset with it. But we just have to deal with the consequences.”

The family says it’s not intending to appeal the decision.

They’d probably win. In Rogers, a family pocketed $425,000 (a few thousand after the lawyers were paid) because Reid Sagehorn, 19, was suspended for tweeting, though the city and school didn’t admit any wrongdoing when it bounced Sagehorn for a two-word tweet that suggested he made out with one of the school’s teachers.

Nonetheless, Hennepin County’s prosecutor had the good sense not to charge him with a felony, and federal Judge John Tunheim ruled in August that he had a reasonable claim that he was unjustly suspended and that the district may have violated his free speech and other rights.

Crescent Post columnist Ricardo Aguello said the WIAA went too far suspending Gehl in substantially the same overreach.

Does it warrant a stern talking to from the Hilbert officials? Sure. Should Hilbert have requested Gehl take down the tweet and apologize? That’s seems fair.

And judging by the statewide, national and international attention, there are many folks around the world who agree.But a five-game suspension? That’s clearly going overboard, especially when other infractions such as underage drinking or fighting would possibly produce the same length of suspension. There seems to be an imbalance on transgressions. Perhaps athletic codes from high schools need to be a bit more clearly defined. Whatever the answer, five games, or 25 percent of the basketball season, is far too much.

It was the WIAA that informed Hilbert of Gehl’s tweet. That may or may not have led to the quick action by the Hilbert officials. But the WIAA sticking its nose in this kind of business is another column for another time.

The Hilbert fans should be working on a new chant aimed at the WIAA. What rhymes with “develop a thicker skin, bureaucrats?”

And “airball”?