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ACLU joins growing list of supporters urging Truman High School to let prankster walk at graduation

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- The ACLU of Missouri is urging the Independence School District to reconsider its position to ban a senior from participating in graduation because of a Craigslist ad prank.

On Wednesday, FOX4 first reported Kylan Scheele posted an ad on Craigslist that listed Truman High School for sale. The Independence School District suspended Scheele for three days and banned him from attending graduation due to what they considered to be an “implied” threat; the 18-year-old wrote the school was for sale because of the “loss of students coming up.”

“I decided to say the reason we’re selling this is because of 'the loss of students,' because the senior class is graduating,” Scheele explained on Wednesday.

The ACLU of Missouri said in a statement the district “disproportionately harsh punishment violates Scheele’s free speech rights and also does a public disservice by discouraging young people from exercising their constitutional right to express themselves.”

Thousands of people online have expressed that the school district went too far. There’s now a petition with nearly 2,000 supporters calling for the district to reverse its decision. One supporter even plans to protest outside of the high school on Friday at noon.

“If they wanted to silence him, I think they probably had the opposite effect because other students are out there saying 'we’ve done this,' some are saying 'we’ve done worse,'” Scheele’s mother, Denetra Clark said on Thursday. “We have no words to describe how amazing it is to know our city, our community, our metropolitan area has so many people who just want to see him succeed.”

FOX4 talked with several parents who have children in the school district. Many of them thought the punishment was unfair.

“He didn’t actually hurt another student,” Rachel Powell said. “He didn’t bully or pick on anybody and that’s our biggest problem -- the bully issue -- not some kid who posts on Craigslist.”

“Some of the teachers weren’t aware of it until they showed them today in class and they were caught off guard as well,” Angie Day, whose son attends Truman High, said.

Day admitted she giggled at the post and thought it was clever, but she said she supports the district’s decision.

“It just goes to show you, you need to think things through,” Day added. “Have somebody with another perspective read what you put out there.”

A district spokesperson said they had a similar situation with another student this past week and that they were consistent in their discipline. As of Thursday evening, the spokesperson had not provided a comment regarding the statement from the ACLU.

The ACLU is urging the school district to respond by 10 a.m. on Friday, May 25.

The ACLU of Missouri said in its statement:

The ACLU of Missouri sent a letter to the Independence School District urging the superintendent to reconsider the suspension of Truman High senior Kylan Scheele. The district’s disproportionately harsh punishment violates Scheele’s free speech rights and also does a public disservice by discouraging young people from exercising their constitutional right to express themselves.

“While these are tough times in schools, we do students no favors by inspecting their off-campus speech for any hint of a threat and then punishing them,” said Tony Rothert, legal director, ACLU of Missouri. “Independence is where Harry S Truman, the last U.S. president with nothing more than a high school diploma, participated in his graduation. There is still time for the Independence School District to encourage democratic principles by making this right and allowing Kylan to walk across that stage.”