Published February 04, 2010
One of the nation's oldest and highest scholastic honors organizations is looking into a Tampa-area high school student's claim that he was booted from the local chapter because of comments he posted on a Facebook page.
The National Honor Society told FoxNews.com Thursday that it was checking into allegations made by Alex Fuentes, who says he posted comments about Wesley Chapel High simply because he was concerned about his school's academic standing.
"I was frustrated that I was going to graduate from a D school," Fuentes told the Tampa Tribune, frustrated by his school's low scores on standardized tests. "It wasn't anything malicious. It was just a joke taken the wrong way."
Three months ago, the 18-year-old senior started a Facebook group called "Wesley Chapel High = Fail," which became a popular venue for students past and present to criticize the school. It now operates under a different name, "Pros and Cons of Wesley Chapel High."
Numerous students dropped out of the group and hid their complaints when teachers discovered it in December, but it still hosts some 278 members. One graduate wrote that she "skipped senior year like 2-3 times a week and still had a 4.0" grade-point average. "EASIEST SCHOOL EVER!"
Officials at the headquarters of the National Honor Society said that national guidelines don't cover disciplinary actions in such cases.
"There's nothing referencing Facebook in the national constitution," said David Cordts, associate director of the National Honor Society, who added that students who "fall below the standards by which they were selected" can come up for disciplinary action.
"We do not stipulate any set guidelines (on the national level) as to what constitutes a dismissible offense — that is always determined by the staff at the local level," he said.
When Fuentes returned from winter break last month, a panel of teachers voted unanimously to dismiss him from the National Honor Society on the grounds he had not upheld a pledge to show loyalty to his school, Fuentes told the Tribune.
He decided to transfer to another school last month when he learned that three of his teachers were on the panel that voted to expel him from the honor society.
A look at Wesley Chapel High's latest Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores shows it performs below state averages in reading, math and science, but only slightly lower than other high schools schools in the Pasco County district.
The school's principal, Carin Nettles, said she couldn't talk specifically about Fuentes' case. But she said the National Honor Society has to follow procedures set out in its constitution when a member is accused of violating the pledge that inductees take.
"They don't just kick someone out," she said.
Students, meanwhile, have rallied to Fuentes' side on Facebook, defending his right to speech outside of the classroom.
"I can't believe that schools try to regulate student's lives in school as well as out of school hours," wrote Kayluis Pena, a Wesley Chapel student and member of the Facebook group.
"I think that WCHS took this group to heart, and felt that they needed to punish Alex for it. Even though he said nothing wrong; past students were the ones trash talking the teachers."