Ever Lopez of Asheboro, North Carolina, was to become the first member of his immediate family to graduate from high school, but instead, he said, he was denied his degree because ‘he wore a Mexican flag on his robe during his graduation ceremony this past week.
Until Mr. Lopez’s name was called out on Thursday, the graduation ceremony at Asheboro High School had gone like any other: a student’s name was called, the student graduated, handshakes were exchanged and people applauded.
But when Mr. Lopez approached the center of the stage with the red-white-and-green Mexican flag draped over his shoulders, he had a brief exchange with the school principal, Penny Crooks, drawing boos. public. After a while, Mr. Lopez left the stage, raising his fist as he returned to his seat.
The moment was captured on video and published on TikTok by Mr Lopez’s cousin Adolfo Hurtado, who said Ms Crooks asked Mr Lopez to remove the flag and he refused to do so.
Mr Lopez, born in the United States to Mexican immigrant parents, said in an interview on Sunday that he carried the flag because he is proud of his Mexican roots.
“The flag means everything to me and my family because it’s what’s in our blood,” he said. “This is where we come from, and I would do anything to represent.”
In a second video that Mr. Hurtado has assigned to TikTok, Ms. Crooks, flanked by four police officers, escorts Mr. Lopez and his family out of the school after the ceremony. “He and his parents can come back tomorrow and we can talk about it,” Ms Crooks said in the video, which has been viewed more than seven million times. “Keep on going.”
Mr Hurtado said Mr Lopez and his classmates were given an empty diploma holder at the graduation ceremony in the hope that they could collect their diplomas afterwards, before returning home. It was after the ceremony that Mr Lopez was informed that he was being refused his degree, Mr Hurtado said.
The Asheboro Public School District, located about 70 miles east of Raleigh, said in a report Friday afternoon that Mr. Lopez had not graduated because he had violated the school dress code, and because he had “undermined the importance and solemnity of the ceremony” .
Join Michael Barbaro and the “The Daily” team as they celebrate students and teachers who end a year like no other with a special live event. Meet the students of Odessa High School, which was the subject of a Times audio documentary series. We’ll even get some noise with a performance by the award-winning Odessa Marching Band Drum Line and a special celebrity opening keynote.
“Graduation is a milestone event and it is completely unfair for a person to diminish this event by violating the dress code,” the district said. “This incident does not concern the Mexican flag. Students were encouraged to express their identity by decorating their mortar boards. A number of students followed protocol and had the Mexican flag and other representations displayed in an appropriate manner during the ceremony.
In an earlier statement, released Friday morning, the school district said it would “continue to work to resolve this issue with the student and his family so that he graduates from Asheboro High School.”
“He worked very hard and we congratulate him on this great achievement,” the district said. “We are confident in his abilities and we know he has a bright future ahead of him.”
Mr Lopez’s mother, Margarita Lopez, said Ms Crooks told her in an email on Sunday that her son could pick up his diploma this week. But Ms Lopez said she and her son also wanted an apology.
“For me, it was an act of racism, not just for my son but for the entire Hispanic community,” she said.
A school spokeswoman declined to comment further on Sunday. Ms Crooks did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.
Mr. Hurtado’s videos of his cousin’s graduation have garnered millions of views on TikTok and generated support for Mr. Lopez.
“She claims it was a disturbance,” Mr Hurtado said of Ms Crooks, adding that her cousin had passed several teachers and school officials before going on stage and no one had asked him to. remove the flag. “Who did he disturb? Nobody said anything, nobody did anything. The only person who was clearly bothered by this was her.
Kimberly Antonia, whose daughter was a few seats behind Mr Lopez, said she applauded him as he approached the stage.
“I thought it was great to see a youngster so proud of his country,” said Antonia. “Having said that, I really think this situation should and could have been handled differently. However, at the time it was not, and nothing can change that.