Arizona State University reached a settlement with one of its students on Thursday following that student’s decision to sue the school for allegedly violating her First Amendment rights.
Rae’Lee Klein was removed from her position as station manager of ASU’s Blaze Radio in September after tweeting out a New York Post story about Jacob Blake — a black man shot by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, back in August — with the caption, “Always more to the story, folks. Please read this article to get the background of Jacob Blake’s warrant. You’ll be quite disgusted.”
Klein shared the tweet in an effort to provide additional context to the shooting. The Post’s story showed that, at the time of the shooting, Blake was wanted in connection with three charges related to an alleged sexual assault, the victim of which was the very woman who called police to the scene of the shooting.
Nonetheless, following a subsequent backlash from progressive activists and ASU students, many of whom described Klein’s actions as racist, Blaze Radio’s board of directors voted to remove Klein from her position.
At first, no one at ASU could tell Klein what specific rule she had broken. Later, a school dean informed her she had broken an unwritten “social media guideline” about “not having opinions,” Klein told The Western Journal back in September.
A month later, Klein sued the university, the Arizona Board of Regents, the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Cronkite Dean Kristin Gilger, claiming the aforementioned parties had violated her First Amendment rights as well as a state law allowing free speech on campus, according to the Phoenix New Times.
A U.S. district court judge threw out the cases against all of the defendants except Gilger “with prejudice,” meaning those cases could not be refiled federally, although Klein’s attorney, Jack Wilenchik, informed the outlet he intended to refile the state claim against all the aforementioned parties.
Those plans ended when the university agreed to settle with Klein. According to a statement released by ASU on Thursday, the school agreed to pay out a total of $7,040 “as reimbursement for certain of her school fees.” Although agreeing to a settlement, the school continues to deny any wrongdoing.
Although Arizona State continues to deny any wrongdoing, or infringement of my 1st Amendment Rights, the settlement illustrates an understanding of their misjudgement and lack of support.
— Rae’Lee Klein (@RaeLeeKlein) February 25, 2021
Despite initially submitting an offer to settle for $500,000, Klein told The Western Journal on Monday that she is very pleased with the end result.
“What’s important to note about the case is it was never about financial gains or even getting my position back. It was really just to kind of make a new principle out of this cancel culture that’s running so rapidly, not only in ASU but across college campuses in the nation,” Klein said.
“I think it’s a really dangerous game that people are playing. And the lawsuit was really just about standing up to it and calling national attention to what’s going on. So I think in that sense, we definitely walked away very happy and satisfied with doing that.”
Many critics of Klein have seized on the fact that the settlement is only a small fraction of the initial offer. In Klein’s view, such criticisms miss the point because “when you file a notice of claim” such as hers, “the number is always fictitious because the statute requires the claimant to just make up a number.”
“We never anticipated getting near that much,” Klein added.
Speaking with the Arizona Republic, ASU President Michael Crow said he didn’t consider the agreement a financial settlement, instead arguing the school had merely “reimbursed her for some fees.”
He went on to say “whatever she’s making up is basically that — just made up, which is one of her core issues.”
Upon first reading his comments, Klein was surprised Crow had “said anything” due to the fact that “he has been dead silent throughout the entire case” and “hid in his office through the entire thing.”
What Crow’s comments to the Republic showed, in Klein’s opinion, was his lack of comprehension about her case, who she is as a person and what her intentions were in filing the case.
“For him to go after one of his 21-year-old students really speaks volumes about his character and his poor leadership and why it’s only a matter of time before a lawsuit like this happened,” Klein told The Western Journal.
“I think the only thing ‘made up’ in the whole case is his false promise in ASU being a unique place in who they include rather than who they exclude, when in reality they’ve done a really good job of alienating many different populations of their student body for many different reasons.”
With this settlement, Klein finally found the end result she had been looking for.
In addition, Klein noted her experience with the lawsuit had “solidified” her desire to go to law school, as she aspires to find a career that combines her experience and education in journalism with a potential law degree.
“I think there’s a lot of good opportunities to combine the two, maybe be the next Kayleigh McEnany, White House press secretary,” Klein told The Western Journal.
“The opportunities are really unlimited.”
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