A North Carolina high school student was denied his diploma for wearing a Mexican flag over his graduation gown.
Ever Lopez draped a Mexican flag over his blue gown at Asheboro High School’s graduation ceremony Thursday night.
Livestreamed video footage from the ceremony shows the principal ask him to take the flag off. After an unsuccessful attempt to take it off, he was handed his diploma holder, which the other students also received. But after walking across the stage, he was denied his actual diploma.
Lopez told ABC News, “When I got up there I went for the handshake and I wasn’t thinking nothing of it and I heard her say, ‘You can’t wear that.’ And I was in shock and confused. I was like, ‘What?’ She was like, ‘The flag. You can’t wear that.'”
The incident has sparked outrage and led to a protest outside the school Friday. However, the school district insists that Lopez’s actions “violated the ceremony’s dress code” and “the incident is not about the Mexican flag.”
Lopez said he wore the flag to honor his family as he’s the first to graduate from high school in his immediate family.
“It means everything to me,” Lopez told ABC News of wearing the Mexican flag. “My parents, my whole family, is from over there. I did it for them because they had a rough childhood; they didn’t get the scholarship that I got, or they didn’t get to go to school like I did. So … representing my flag and getting a diploma was really important to me because I was basically doing it for my family.”
Lopez said the school asked him to apologize as a condition of receiving his diploma.
“I don’t know why I should apologize, when it should be heard, because I did nothing wrong,” Lopez said.
Afterward, Lopez’s family was escorted off the school property “after a request was made by Principal [Penny] Crooks,” Asheboro police told ABC News. Asheboro police officers were working the graduation in “an approved off-duty capacity.”
Lopez has still yet to receive his diploma.
Asheboro City schools said in a statement that the graduation dress code was shared with students ahead of time and allowed for students to decorate their graduation caps, but “the wearing of a flag of any kind is a violation of the dress code.” In live-stream footage of the graduation, many students are seen with alterations to their caps, featuring handwritten messages, drawings, or flowers.
Source: ABC News
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