A student at Asheboro High School in Asheboro, North Carolina, was denied his diploma on Thursday after wearing a Mexican flag over his graduation gown at the commencement ceremony.
“I just gotta represent — I did it for my family. They came over here to give me a better future,” explained Ever Lopez of why he showed up to his graduation ceremony wearing a Mexican flag, according to a report by the Courier-Tribune.
In a video posted to Twitter by Lopez’s cousin, Adolfo Hurtado, the student can be seen stepping up onto the stage when his name is called.
The principal, however, didn’t hand over the diploma, and instead spoke to Lopez quietly, as a line of students waited behind him. Moments later, Lopez walked off stage without his diploma in hand.
My Twitter people make this go viral. Principle “Mrs. Penny Crooks” denied my cousin his diploma for causing a “disturbance” to the graduation ceremony. pic.twitter.com/7HfKzNGdJ3
— ♔ Adolfo Hurtado ♕ (@dolfoohurtado) June 4, 2021
“I myself was very upset, and I had to contain my emotions because we’re in a public area,” Hurtado said. “We had a lot of people with eyes on us.”
Asheboro City Schools said that the denial of Lopez’s diploma was not due to the Mexican flag in particular, saying in a statement that the ordeal was due to the student being out of dress code.
“The heart of the issue is the fact that the student did not follow the established dress code for the event and detracted from the importance and the solemnity of the ceremony,” the statement read. “Our dress code is in place to ensure the dignity of the event is upheld and is fair to all students. Graduation is a milestone event and it is grossly unfair for one individual to diminish this event by violating the dress code.”
Asheboro High School principal Penny Crooks emailed students ahead of the ceremony, explaining the dress code, directing male students to wear a dress shirt and dress pants, and female students to wear a dress, skirt, or dress pants, adding that flip flops and sneakers are prohibited, reports the Courier-Tribune.
The report added that while the email states clothing should meet the school district’s dress code policy, the dress code policy doesn’t mention flags being prohibited.
Principal Crooks reportedly said Lopez can receive his diploma if he apologizes for the incident.
“I ain’t apologizing for nothing,” Lopez told the Courier-Tribune. “It’s you who should be apologizing. You’re the one doing wrong.”
Lopez’s mother, Margarita Lopez, also reacted to the encounter, stating, “For me that’s not fair. That’s something for racists.”
By 3:00 p.m. on Friday, Lopez still hadn’t received his diploma. The student’s mother, however, said she received a call from the school, and that she is setting up a meeting next week to discuss the situation.
The school reportedly offered to meet Lopez’s mother on Friday, but she preferred to wait until she could have a translator before attending the meeting.
On Friday afternoon, a group of about 30 protesters gathered outside Asheboro High School, wielding signs, which read, “Free Ever’s Diploma,” and “Honk if You’re Not Racist.” Others draped Mexican flags over their shoulders.