The school was heavily criticized for also demanding the student apologize before he's given his diploma.
A graduating senior from North Carolina, Ever Lopez, finally got his diploma after initially being denied his diploma for wearing a Mexican flag over his graduation gown. The incident was filmed by his cousin during the ceremony and uploaded on TikTok, where it had gone viral on the internet. A faculty member stopped Lopez from collecting his diploma as he walked down the stage at Asheboro High School. The 18-year-old received his diploma on Monday and held it up in his hands as he walked out of school to a small gathering of people waiting for him, reported ABC13 News. He was handed the diploma shortly after his family held a press conference during which they said they were "humiliated" when they were escorted out of the school by police officers.
"We're only asking for an explanation from the principal about the incidents that happened and even why we were escorted out by police officers," said Ever's mother, Margarita. "Because what happened on Thursday isn't just about my son, it's about our entire Latino community." Shortly after the press conference, Lopez, along with his family, met with administrators before being given his diploma. The school district confirmed the same and congratulated him. "The graduate picked up his diploma at Asheboro High School on Monday, June 7 following a press conference coordinated by [advocacy group] Siembra NC," read a statement by the district.
During the graduation ceremony, he was asked to take off the Mexican flag worn over his gown. He had initially taken off the flag but decided to keep it on after audience members encouraged him to do so, said his cousin Hurtado in the video, reported NBC News. The ceremony had also been live-streamed on Asheboro City School's Facebook account. "He and his parents can come back tomorrow, and we can talk about it," the faculty member could be heard telling the student in the video.
🗣PLEASE PUT THIS SCHOOL DISTRICT ON BLAST. THEY DID NOT GIVE THIS YOUNG MAN HIS DIPLOMA JUST FOR WEARING A MEXICAN FLAG ON HIS BACK. Condemn the school’s and superintendent’s decision! 🗣 pic.twitter.com/Vt8CeNOK0B— 𝕻𝖆𝖕𝖎𝕱𝖗𝖊𝖘𝖈𝖔 (@mexicanopapi) June 5, 2021
"The flag means everything to me and my family because it’s what is in our blood," said Lopez, reported The New York Times. "It’s where we came from, and I’d do anything to represent." The staff had demanded that the student apologize before being handed the diploma at the time, said his cousin, who added that Lopez wasn't planning on apologizing. The faculty member who stopped Ever Lopez from collecting his diploma was identified as school principal Penny Crooks, by Alethea Hill, a 20-year-old, whose brother is close friends with Lopez. The crowd booed the principal for denying Lopez his diploma on account of wearing a flag. After the ceremony, Lopez was allowed to receive a diploma holder but not his diploma, said Hill.
Lopez protested the decision to deny him the diploma and raised the matter with the district superintendent, who had also attended the ceremony but was told that the final decision stood with the principal. They finally spoke to the principal in her office and were told that he had violated the dress code and asked to apologize to receive his diploma. In a separate video uploaded by Hurtado, the family was seen escorted outside.
Shortly after the video went viral, the school defended its actions. "We strongly support our students’ expressions of their heritage at the appropriate time and place. 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. We are very clear with students that this was the ONLY acceptable deviation from the standard cap and gown regalia," read a statement by the school, before adding that it would reconsider the decision for "future senior classes in light of the situation that occurred."
This student from Asheboro highschool was denied his diploma by principal, Penny Crooks, for wearing his Mexican flag while walking the stage. He was told to apologize for causing a disruption. Give this kid his damn diploma. ✨Twitter do your thing✨ #mexico #latinx #Classof2021 pic.twitter.com/0d0UhCPG7c— Roy Magaña — he/him/él 🏳️🌈 (@alwaysbetongay) June 4, 2021
The school also refuted claims it was because of racism. "We are disheartened by the many comments by those not present at the event, along with those by individuals who do not have all of the facts," read the statement. The statement also said the school was "working to resolve this issue with the student and his family so that he will receive his diploma from Asheboro High School. He has worked very hard and we commend him on this great achievement." Julian Castro backed the student, tweeting: Ever Lopez was denied his diploma after crossing the stage with a Mexican flag over his shoulders. His family was escorted out by police. This is a bad overreaction to a display of pride. He earned his diploma."
A petition with more than 100,000 signatories had demanded the school to hand him his diploma. Lopez’s mother, Margarita Lopez, said her son was being discriminated against. “To me, this was an act of racism, not just to my son but to the entire Hispanic community,” said Margarita Lopez.