A North Carolina high school got national attention after denying an 18-year-old his diploma when he wore a Mexican flag during a graduation ceremony. The principal explained the decision citing a violation of dress code protocols, and the student eventually received his diploma.
Ever Lopez, a Mexican American, wore a Mexican flag over his blue gown during Asheboro High School’s graduation ceremony. He approached the school’s principal, prompting Penny Crooks to ask him to take the flag off.
According to Adolfo Hurtado, Lopez’s cousin who posted the viral Tiktok video, Crooks had asked Lopez to remove the flag, and he declined.
“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,'” Lopez, who is the first person in his immediate family to graduate from high school, told the outlet. “And I was in shock and confused. I was like, ‘What?’ She was like, ‘The flag. You can’t wear that.’ “
After Lopez was denied his diploma placeholder, the video shows him raising his fist as he walked away from the principal. Shortly after, Crooks was seen in a separate video accompanied by police confronting Lopez and other students as they argued for Lopez to receive his diploma.
Allegedly cops were later sent to Lopez’s house by the school, saying the school had would give him his diploma if he apologized.
“It means everything to me,” he said, according to ABC.
“I don’t know why I should apologize, when it should be heard, because I did nothing wrong,” Lopez told the outlet.
The graduation initiated a nationwide wide protest against the North Carolina school’s policy and gained more than 100,000 signatures for a petition supporting Lopez.
The school district released a statement saying that it supports students’ “expressions of their heritage in the appropriate time and place” — but insisted donning the Mexican flag “violated the ceremony’s dress code.”
“We continue working to resolve this issue with the student and his family so that he will receive his diploma from Asheboro High School,” the statement read. “He has worked very hard and we commend him on this great achievement. We are confident in his abilities and we know he has a bright future ahead of him.”
Although the district’s announcement made clear that the issue was not the Mexican flag, several have argued that they wouldn’t have received the same treatment if a student was wearing an American flag.
On Friday, the district released an additional statement on their website clarifying rumors that the mainstream media have spread.
“This incident is not about the Mexican flag. Students were encouraged to express their identity by decorating their mortar boards…….AHS has a long standing tradition of high standards for our students. Graduation is no different. These policies are in place so that all students and families have the opportunity to enjoy graduation.”
In an update on Monday, the district said Lopez eventually received his diploma, writing, “As with all graduates, we wish him well and we will continue to serve our community in ways that help all young people meet their full potential.”
Despite the immense criticism the North Carolina High School received, it’s appropriate to assume that the school acted in good faith to preserve the traditional and politically neutral ceremony.