Talks continuing in Yik Yak case, but no settlement yet

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette file photo Matthew Schultz speaks during his September 2016 press conference announcing a lawsuit against Michigan Technological University. Attorneys continue to negotiate a settlement, Schultz’s attorney Steve Pence, pictured here on left, said Wednesday.

HOUGHTON — Both sides continue to seek a resolution in the case of a Michigan Technological University student who sued the university after it expelled him over a post made on the social media site Yik Yak.

Matthew Schultz filed a suit in U.S. District Court in 2016 against a Michigan Technological University student and numerous officials, as well as Ryan Grainger, a former Tech student whose Twitter account posted a doctored version of Schultz’s post.

Schultz made the post on the social media app Yik Yak, which lets users see posts made within a 5-mile radius. Schultz was first suspended for 18 months and then expelled from Tech after posting “Gonna shoot all black people …… a smile tomorrow” followed by a smiley-face emoji.

The wording of the post was similar to a threat posted at another university days before. The doctored post circulated from Grainger’s account, which was sent to Tech officials, omitted the post-ellipses text.

A one-day mediation session was held in April. Schultz’s attorney, Steve Pence, wouldn’t indicate how close to an agreement the parties are.

“Cases aren’t settled until they’re settled,” he said. “I would say that both sides are encouraged enough to continue to talk.”

Schultz is seeking damages of more than $75,000 and reinstatement to the university. He alleges the university violated his First Amendment right to free speech, while the university’s disciplinary process violated due process.

The university is seeking dismissal on several grounds, including that the original post could be considered a “true threat,” stripping it of First Amendment protection, and that Tech employees named individually in the suit should receive qualified immunity for performing their jobs.

In his response, Grainger said he had not altered the screenshot of Schultz’s post but had received it from another operator of the @MTUYaks Twitter account after Schultz’s original post went out.