GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A former Michigan Technological University student has agreed to settle his lawsuit against the school over an alleged internet threat against black people.
Matthew Schultz filed an agreement to settle the case Tuesday, though terms of the proposed settlement weren’t disclosed.
Court documents allege Schultz was a junior in November 2015 when he posted, “Gonna shoot all black people …… A smile tomorrow,” on social-media app Yik Yak. He was expelled and arrested after another student sent the school a screenshot of the post, altering it to say only: “Gonna shoot all black people.”
Schultz said the post wasn’t a threat and he intended it to mean he was going to smile at black individuals.
His lawsuit said he gave the school his original post, which he said was deleted five minutes after he posted it, but that school officials ignored it to show a hard stance on racial issues.
“This case tells a troubling tale that even after MTU realized Plaintiff’s social media post was significantly altered, they refused to back down, and perpetuated false public information for their own purposes,” wrote Steve Pence and Nicholas Roumel, Schultz’s attorneys.
“It calls into mind the political saw: ‘It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.'”
The university said its response was appropriate given nationwide school shootings.
“Indeed, reasonable recipients of the post viewed Plaintiff’s message as making two distinct statements: ‘Gonna shoot all black people’ and that the anonymous poster would have ‘A smile tomorrow’ (perhaps after shooting black people today),” wrote Michael Cavanaugh, the school’s attorney.
The lawsuit also alleged the post was protected speech under the First Amendment.
The student who altered the post was also a defendant in the case. The student acknowledged he helped create disruption on campus and said he regrets the harm caused to Schultz’s education and reputation. Schultz’s claim against the student has also been settled.
Michigan Tech is expected to expunge the expulsion and related discipline from his record, but Schultz will not be returning to the school.
Criminal charges were dropped against Schultz, who is from the northwest Michigan city of Norway. The settlement awaits court approval.