#FreeRaul trends on Twitter for student banned from graduation - KPTV - FOX 12

#FreeRaul trends on Twitter for student banned from graduation

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A high school senior in Salem will graduate, but will not get to accept that diploma in person because of what he said outside prom.

Raul Villarreal is being accused of attending prom under the influence of marijuana, but Villarreal said, he didn't smoke pot that night and never has.

"It doesn't matter what the truth is. It matters what they think is the truth," he said.

Villarreal is a star wrestler and an International Baccalaureate student at South Salem High School, but now, he's in big trouble.

"I was like one step up from inside prom, and I could head the music, and I was like 'Ah man, what's going on?' and then that's when we got pulled out," he said.

Villarreal said administrators and the school resource officer believed he was high. They questioned Raul for several minutes. Raul says he was pressured into confessing, even though he says he was innocent.

"I've never actually consumed marijuana before," Villarreal said. "They were kind of implying to me that everything would work out easier if I just said I did it, like all of this could just go away."

Villarreal was sent home with no prom and no dances with his date.

"It was horrible, to be honest. I missed something that you're supposed to remember forever," he said.

That was just the beginning of his punishment. Villarreal was suspended for five days and banned from all senior year-end activities, including the senior banquet, upcoming senior party and graduation.

A few days after prom, Villarreal took a drug test on his own. It came back negative for any trace of marijuana.

"It's disappointing that they couldn't change their mind. It feels like they didn't really take into consideration what we proved, what we provided," Raul's dad Raul Villarreal Sr. said.

Students and community members took to Twitter in support of Raul. Several people have been posting messages of support with the hashtag #FreeRaul. A friend gathered 575 signatures for a petition to allow Raul to walk during graduation.

In a letter a few days after the incident, the school denied Raul's appeal. Raul will not be walking with his class at graduation.

"They can't give me those memories back. I can't just be like, 'Hey, can I walk again or go to another prom?' It's like, 'No, you don't. You get one chance for that," Raul said.

South Salem High School Principal David Phelps said the school's drug-use policy is clear, and that it's his job to make sure it is applied fairly and responsibly.

He said students are warned multiple times not to do things that will jeopardize their chance to walk in graduation.

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