Oak Lawn High School student scam keeps 47 from graduating
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org May 19, 2014 7:46PM
Forty-seven students at Oak Lawn Community High School claimed to have done community service at Stony Creek but never did, school officials and Stony Creek general manager Bill Krueger said. | Steve Metsch~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 23, 2014 2:38PM
Most of the 440 members of the senior class at Oak Lawn Community High School will be busy Wednesday preparing for their graduation ceremony that evening.
But 48 members of the Class of 2014 will be nowhere near the Shannon Center on the campus of St. Xavier University in Chicago. That’s because all but one are not being allowed to graduate, and the other is banned from the ceremony.
The 47 falsified documentation of their required community service hours, claiming to have helped at Stony Creek Golf Course in Oak Lawn when they never did, District 229 Supt. Michael Riordan, who’s also the school principal, said Monday.
The 48th student did complete the required 24 hours of service that students must perform over four years. But he is not allowed at the ceremony because he forged the signature of Bill Krueger, the general manager and PGA professional of Stony Creek, on 45 of those forms, Riordan said.
He said the student charged peers $10 to $20 for each forged signature, but it’s not clear if all paid. That student was suspended five days from school and prohibited from taking part in the graduation ceremony, Riordan said.
Each of the 47 students will receive their diploma once they provide proof of having met the graduation requirement for community service, he said.
School officials realized something was amiss Thursday when they noticed that two service forms turned in at the last minute had signatures that looked different from those on the other forms. The students who turned in those two forms were questioned, which led to more students being questioned, and the plot soon unraveled.
Eventually, it was determined that none of the students had completed the required 24 hours and that Krueger’s signature had been forged, according to Riordan.
“If you do not meet our graduation requirements, which includes academic credit and community service, you’re not allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony. So we called parents to explain this to them,” he said.
The 24 hours of community service over four years in school has been required of graduates for about six years, Riordan said. He said there’s a wide variety of service options for students, so “there’s not a real good reason to not have it completed other than just putting it off.”
Sitting in his Stony Creek office Monday, Krueger said he was “surprised” when school officials contacted him about the forged signatures.
“They asked if I knew these kids and if they were here. I’m all about integrity,” he said. “I’ll support whatever the school wants to do to make it right. I just confirmed they weren’t here and that’s about it. I don’t know any of these kids.”
However, he will welcome the students if they want to complete their community service at the golf course in the coming weeks. There’s plenty for them to do, he said.
“They do multiple things here. We’ve got kitchen work, cleaning, helping us clean and maintain the golf carts, outside work, helping at the (driving) range, washing windows, things like that,” Krueger said.
Riordan called the whole incident “very unfortunate,” saying that he has heard from “very disappointed” parents, some of whom wondered if another punishment was possible. There’s no alternative, he told them.
“We can’t talk enough to our kids about the importance of integrity,” he said. “It’s something we stress and part of our mission in terms of what we want our kids to learn during their four years with us. We want them to grow personally as well as academically.
“This is going to be a hard lesson for them. It’s a high price to pay to miss your graduation ceremony. I empathize with our parents as a parent myself, but as a school official, I need to uphold the integrity of our expectations for our kids.”