KANSAS CITY – Lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri recently filed a lawsuit against the Independence School District after school officials banned a high school senior from graduation ceremonies for posting a Craigslist ad that listed his school for sale.
The May 25 suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri on behalf of the student, Kylan Scheele, claims the harsh punishment violated Scheele’s right to free speech. According to the complaint, Scheele posted the ad May 18 offering to sell Truman High school for $12,725 as a senior prank. But the prank backfired when the school district banned him from the May 26 graduation ceremony.
The Craigslist ad included a list of amenities that came with the school, including a “bigger than normal dining room,” new athletic fields and a “huge parking lot, great for partygoers looking for somewhere to park,” according to the complaint. Scheele also wrote that the school was being sold “due to the loss of students coming up,” which school officials interpreted as a threat in the wake of recent mass school shootings.
The ACLU lawyers contend that the ad contained no threat. “Some employees of defendant unreasonably construed the satirical ad as a threat to kill students,” the complaint said.
The suit states that the school district and its employees know that hundreds of students are graduating from Truman High School and will no longer be attending.
“Although defendant fully understands that those who interpreted the satirical ad as a threat of mass murder were mistaken, defendant is unwilling to admit its mistake or reconsider its punishment of plaintiff,” the complaint said.
The suit notes that Scheele, who has a 3.9 grade point average, had never been disciplined by the school district prior to the incident. The suit is asking the court to award Scheele attorneys’ fees and costs and “further relief” to which he may be entitled.