Student denied diploma for wearing Mexico flag at graduation

‘To me, this was an act of racism, not just to my son but to the entire Hispanic community’

Namita Singh
Monday 07 June 2021 21:45 BST
Student denied diploma for wearing Mexico flag at graduation
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A North Carolina high school student was denied his diploma at a graduation ceremony last week after he attended the event wearing a Mexican flag over his gown.

Ever Lopez, 18, had draped the flag over his blue gown at Asheboro High School’s graduation ceremony, where he was set to be the first member of his immediate family to graduate from high school.

But Mr Lopez’s diploma was withheld after the principal of the school tried to unsuccessfully persuade him to take the flag off.

Videos of the incident showed Mr Lopez going to get his diploma as part of a line of students, which then gets held up as he stands in front of the principal. Booing can then be heard, before the student walks away without a diploma in hand.

“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’,” recalled Mr Lopez in an interview with ABC News. “And I was in shock and confused. I was like, ‘What?’ She was like, ‘The flag. You can’t wear that.’"

Lopez says that he was sitting near teachers in the audience and the flag was not raised as an issue till he got up on stage, adding that he did not anticipate such a strong reaction. The video showed some other students also engaging in displays of national pride, including at least one Mexican-flag mortarboard.

The school said the problem was not about the Mexican flag itself, but a violation of the ceremony’s dress code.

“The heart of the issue is the fact that the student did not follow the established dress code for the event and detracted from the importance and the solemnity of the ceremony,” Asheboro City Schools was quoted as saying by USA Today. “Our dress code is in place to ensure the dignity of the event is upheld and is fair to all students. Graduation is a milestone event and it is grossly unfair for one individual to diminish this event by violating the dress code.”

Mr Lopez, born in the US to Mexican immigrants, says that he wore the flag to recognise the sacrifices and struggle of his family.

“It means everything to me,” Mr Lopez said of the Mexican flag in an interview with ABC News. “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.”

Mr Lopez’s mother Margarita Lopez told the New York Times that the school principal Penny Crooks had informed them they could still collect the diploma later this week.

Nonetheless, she said she wants an apology from the school for what she deemed an “act of racism”.

“To me, this was an act of racism, not just to my son but to the entire Hispanic community,” she said.

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