It was supposed to just be a senior prank. But Truman High School officials weren’t laughing when they banned the student from his graduation.
As a joke, Kylan Scheele, 18, listed Truman High for sale on Craigslist at the bargain basement price of $12,275.
“I wanted to list it really low because people search low to high and I wanted it to be the first thing to pop up,” Scheele said.
But some who saw the post took it as a possible threat against the school and reported it.
It was Scheele’s choice of words that got the A-student in trouble. In addition to including several amenities, such as a new football field and what he called a “20 plus room facility,” his post also said, “The reason for the sale is due to the loss of students coming up.”
The “loss” meant the students who would be graduating.
“I posted a harmless ad on Craigslist with no talk of violence at all, and because someone twisted my words and inferred that I might do something to the school, they won’t let me walk at graduation,” Scheele said.
“Everyone I know knew it was a joke. All the seniors knew that it was clearly a joke.”
But Scheele’s post led school officials and Independence police to spend significant hours tracking down the source, said Jana Corrie, the district’s spokeswoman. She said police even issued an emergency subpoena to Craigslist.
“We determined it was not a credible threat,” Corrie said.
But before that determination was made, she said, some parents worried the school was being targeted for possible violence and pulled their children out. The district never sent parents a notification of a threat.
“We take student safety very seriously and appreciate the students and parents who brought this to our attention,” the district said in a statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, administrators and police investigated and determined there was not a credible threat. A student who makes a real or implied threat, whether it is deemed credible or not, will face discipline. Due to the heightened concern nationally with school violence, we have extra police officers for the remainder of the school year and will have additional officers at graduations for all of our high schools.”
Corrie said Scheele is not the only student this year to be banned from graduation for a similar incident. She said student privacy laws prohibit her from revealing more details.
Scheele’s mother, Denetra Clark, said, “I think the school district drastically blew this out of proportion. … I think it was a silly prank. He probably didn’t choose the best words, but he’s an 18-year-old boy.”
And once he found out some people viewed the post as a threat, “he felt remorse,” said Clark, a freelance photographer in Independence. “He didn’t want to scare his classmates. He wanted to leave a lasting memory.”
After investigating the Craiglist post, Independence police said they found no reason to pursue criminal charges.
Scheele made the post on Friday. It has since been removed. On Tuesday, Independence detectives showed up at his house.
“They said they didn’t find it to be a credible threat,” Scheele said. “They chuckled about it and told me I should probably go and clear it up with the school.”
Scheele said he went to school the next day to explain and apologize. He was suspended for three days — the rest of the seniors’ school year — and told he could not participate in graduation this Saturday.
“I was cool with getting the suspension, as long as they would let me go to graduation,” Scheele said. “I have worked hard. I have 3.96 grad point average. I’ve never been suspended, and the first time I get in trouble I can’t walk at graduation. I have waited 13 years to walk at graduation.”
On top of that, Scheele said he and his parents have spent hundreds of dollars on his cap and gown and graduation invitations.
Because of the suspension, Scheele said he also missed the senior breakfast. “Bacon and pancakes. I was really looking forward to that. Graduation is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Students at Truman have collected 1,400 supporters so far on an online petition, “Let Kylan Scheele Walk With His Class at Graduation,” asking that school officials reconsider the decision.
Scheele’s senior prank is not unusual. Seniors at Auburn High School in Rockford, Ill., this year also bid farewell to their school by listing it for sale on Craigslist. That post didn’t seem to get them in trouble.
Scheele said he got the idea from seniors at another school who said they intended to create an ad with a picture of their school and a caption that said “prison for sale.” Scheele said other seniors at Truman had talked about releasing live mice in the school as a senior prank.
For now, he’ll continue working his job as a barista at Starbucks and hopes to get a company scholarship to college.
Scheele said if he had it to do over again, he would still pull the school-for-sale prank.
Only, “I would use a better choice of words to make it blatantly obvious that it was a joke,” he said. “Or I would just write at the end of it: ‘This is a joke.’”
© 2018 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)
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