Ever Lopez, N.C. student, wore Mexican flag to graduation, denied diploma

ASHEBORO, NC – When Ever Lopez decided to fly a Mexican flag at his graduation ceremony, he hoped to support his culture. Lopez didn’t expect anyone to react violently, but because of the flag, Lopez was denied his diploma.

At the Asheboro High School graduation ceremony Thursday night, Lopez said he carried the flag and draped it over his shoulders while he sat. Lopez said he was sitting near teachers and no one mentioned the flag until he reached the stage.

“I just have to represent,” said Lopez. “I did it for my family. You came here to give me a better future. ”

He is the first in his immediate family to graduate, so the ceremony had a special meaning.

When his name was called, he took the stage, ready to receive his diploma. However, the principal did not want to hand it over to him and spoke to him in a low voice while a line of students waited behind him. After a few seconds he left the stage without his diploma.

“I was very excited myself and had to hold back my emotions because we are in a public area. We had a lot of people who had our eye on us, ”said Lopez’s cousin Adolfo Hurtado.

Lopez said the administration told him he was a distraction. But a statement from Asheboro City Schools said he broke a dress code.

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“The crux of the problem is the fact that the student did not adhere to the established dress code for the event and undermined the meaning and solemnity of the ceremony,” said a statement from Asheboro City Schools. “Our dress code serves to preserve the dignity of the event and to do justice to all students. Graduation is a milestone event and it is grossly unfair for a person to belittle the event by violating the dress code. “

The school’s statement also stated that the denial of Lopez’s diploma was not about the Mexican flag and that other students had flags on their graduation caps and were not punished. Photos and reports from the ceremony show other students wearing stoles displaying the Mexican flag and these students receiving their diplomas.

An email school principal Penny Crooks sent to students prior to the ceremony explained the dress code, saying male students should wear a shirt and suit pants and female students should wear a dress, skirt or suit pants, rather than flip-flops or tennis shoes are allowed. The email also states that clothing should conform to the school district dress code. The email and school dress codes do not mention that flags are prohibited clothing, nor do they say that students are not allowed to wear anything over their clothes.

After the ceremony, Lopez and his parents were called to Crooks’ office. Crooks said he could get his diploma if he apologized, Lopez said.

“I don’t apologize for nothing,” Lopez told the Courier-Tribune after the encounter. “You should apologize.

His mother, Margarita Lopez, shouted, “It’s not fair to me. This is something for racists. “

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After their meeting, police escorted Lopez and his family out of the building. Robbie Brown, deputy chief of police for the Asheboro Police Department, said officers were already there for the ceremony and had not sent any more officers. Officials escorted Lopez from the property at the principal’s request, Brown said.

At 3 p.m. on Friday, Lopez had not yet received his diploma. His mother said she received a call from the school and that she would arrange a meeting with the school administration next week. The school offered to meet on Friday afternoons, but Margarita Lopez said she preferred to wait so she could have others with her so that she could have a translator since English is not her first language.

On Friday afternoon, about 30 people gathered outside Asheboro High School to support Lopez. Some in the group held signs saying “Free Evers Diploma” or “Honk if You Are Not Racist” and others draped Mexican flags over their shoulders. Cars honked down the street every few minutes in support of their cause.

Jessica Estrada, an Asheboro High School student, also attended the demonstration.

“I can’t imagine how his mom is feeling right now, considering that he just wanted to show where he’s from and show his pride. He worked hard to get something that means so much to so many immigrant parents. The fact that she refused to give it to him – it’s messed up, ”said Estrada.

The incident sparked a firestorm on social media with comments on Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and TikTok. Supporters started a petition on Change.org called “Give this man his diploma”, which had more than 40,000 signatures on Friday afternoon.

“Now I feel joy because everyone supports me,” said Lopez.

Asheboro City Schools said after graduating on Thursday that the dress code would be reassessed. A representative from Asheboro City Schools was unavailable on Friday for comment beyond the school district’s published statements.

Follow Rachel Berry and Michelle Shen on Twitter: @racheldberry and @ michelle_shen10

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