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Ever Lopez was ready to walk the stage at his high school graduation ceremony wearing a Mexican flag draped over his shoulders to celebrate his heritage. But when his name was called, his principal pulled him aside and told him to take the flag off or he wouldn’t get his diploma.
Lopez, 18, refused, and he walked off-stage to cheers, but without any diploma from Asheboro High School, in North Carolina.
The first of his immediate family to graduate from high school, Lopez wanted to wear the flag to show pride about where his family came from, according to the Courier-Tribune. In a video posted to Twitter by his cousin, Lopez can be seen walking up to receive the diploma during Thursday’s ceremony after his name is called, but then being stopped and spoken to by teachers at the podium. After 15 seconds, Ever walks away with no diploma in hand.
Asheboro City Schools said in a statement on Friday that Lopez had violated the ceremony’s dress code by wearing the flag at graduation, and that it wasn’t the “appropriate time or place” to display his heritage.
“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,” the district's statement said. “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.”
The principal who stopped Lopez from walking at his ceremony, Penny Crooks, said that the 18-year-old wouldn’t receive his diploma until he apologized for wearing the flag, Lopez told the Courier-Tribune. A petition that now has more than 102,000 signatures was also started after the incident, demanding the graduate receive his diploma.
The district apparently reversed course, and on Monday announced that Lopez had picked up his diploma following a press conference organized by an immigration advocacy group.
“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,” the district said in a new statement.
As of Monday morning, Asheboro City Schools deleted all of their social media accounts. When asked for comment about the incident with Lopez, the district referred VICE News to their public statement, and did not respond to questions about why they deleted their social media presence.
Lopez isn’t the only high school student to be punished recently for wearing a Mexican flag at a graduation.
Ashley Saucedo was kicked out of her graduation ceremony last week in San Antonio for wearing a Mexican flag, local station KSAT reported. She told the outlet that she still doesn’t have a diploma.
“I also did it for every parent out there who’s an immigrant and comes here to the United States to have a better life,” Saucedo told KSAT. “Not only for themselves but for their kids and the future grandkids and everybody else, so they can live the dream, the American dream.”