A high school senior was denied his diploma from a North Carolina school last week. On Thursday, June 3, the 18-year-old wore the Mexican flag over his graduation gown at Asheboro High School’s ceremony, the choice that reportedly violates the school’s dress code.
Ever Lopez was born in the United States to Mexican immigrants and is the first in his immediate family to graduate high school. The moment was captured and uploaded to TikTok by Lopez’s cousin Adolfo Hurtado. In the video, Lopez is seen approaching the podium expecting to receive his diploma. You can then see a brief discussion take place with the school’s principal, Penny Crooks. He got two pats on the back from other school administrators before walking away and raising his fist in the air without a diploma. The crowd can be heard booing.
The schools administration released a statement saying “Our graduation dress code is clearly shared with students ahead of time, and the wearing of a flag of any kind is a violation of the dress code.” It goes on to say that “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.” Administration officials also point out that they allow decoration of mortar boards for graduation ceremonies.
However, a look at the dress code makes no explicit mention of flags or the like over gowns. Meanwhile, it does prohibit hats or clothing that advertise illegal in school products such as drugs, alcohol or tobacco. It also doesn’t allow clothing that’s gang-related or items that are provocative or obscene.
Lopez told the New York Times that he wore the flag because he was proud of his heritage. “The flag means everything to me and my family because it’s what is in our blood,” he said. “It’s where we came from, and I’d do anything to represent.”
A second video shows four separate police officers along with Ms. Crooks escorting Lopez and his family out of the school’s graduation. “He and his parents can come back tomorrow and we can talk about it,” she said. “Go on.”
Lopez’s mother, Margarita Lopez also told the Times that she was informed her son could pick up his diploma this week. But she said he also wants an apology. “This was an act of racism, not just to my son but to the entire Hispanic community.”
Update; Tuesday, June 8 at 10:20 ET:
High School Senior Ever Lopez is now the proud owner of his high school diploma. In a press conference held on Monday by Siembra NC, an immigration advocacy organization, Lopez’s mother Margarita asked for a public apology for her son and her community at large. “Because what happened on Thursday isn’t just about my son, it’s about our entire Latino community,” she said, speaking in Spanish. Her message was translated from Spanish to English by Kelly Morales, Siembra NC executive director, as the press conference was live streamed on Facebook. “As parents, we are so proud that he has taken on the honor and pride of where his roots are and where he comes from.”