SALEM -- A teen says he was forced to falsely admit he smoked pot before his prom, and now he's being told he cannot walk with his graduating class at South Salem high School, as first reported in The Statesman Journal.
Raul Villareal claims he was not high when confronted by police and school administrators on May 17. But he said they badgered him into saying he was, claiming it would make things easier.
"They were just saying, 'It would just be easier if you would just tell the truth' and I'm like, 'I am telling you the truth.' I felt like, maybe if I just say I was [high], I can just maybe even go back into the prom."
Villareal was not allowed back inside and he was also barred from several other school activities. His father voluntarily took him for a drug test a few days later and submitted the results to the school. The test came up negative for marijuana or any other type of drug use, even though it can pick up pot use within 30 days.
As word spread about Villareal's claims, fellow students started talking about it on social media and even created the hashtag #FreeRaul, which started trending on Twitter.
Friends also began circulating a petition asking administrators to rethink the punishment and more than 600 signatures were turned into the school Monday. But principal David Phelps maintained Monday afternoon that the school has clear evidence Villareal was under the influence on the night in question. He said Villareal still will not be allowed to attend graduation, despite the petition.
"We appreciate that you are trying to help a friend," Phelps said in a statement. "However, student discipline incidents are private matters, by law, that need to be solved through the student and their parents working together with the school."
"Even when the student tells the public their side of the story," he continued, "the school is still not allowed to share private details in public that might provide more context for the fairness of the decision.
Read the statement (PDF)
Villareal will still graduate, but may not participate in the ceremony. He also served his five-day suspension during the week of May 19.
His father told the Statesman-Journal that Villareal is an honor student, captain of the wrestling team and has not had any previous problems in school. He has already been accepted to Western Oregon University.