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A high school student in North Carolina had his diploma withheld after the school accused him of violating the ceremony’s dress code by draping a Mexican flag over his robes.
Ever Martinez Lopez, 18, was seen walking across the stage to receive the diploma from Asheboro High School principal Penny Crooks on June 3 in a video posted by his cousin Adolfo Hurtado. However, Lopez was stopped for a brief exchange with Crooks. He then walked off-stage to cheers, carrying an empty diploma holder which other students also received.
Lopez told ABC News that the principal told him multiple times during their conversation on-stage that he couldn’t wear the flag.
When Lopez went to collect his actual diploma certificate after the ceremony, he was informed that he would not receive his diploma for violating the ceremony’s dress code.
“My parents, my whole family, is from over there (Mexico). 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,” Lopez said to ABC.
“When I saw him walk with our country’s flag on his shoulders, I felt immensely proud and thought, ‘This boy was born here and he is not ashamed of his roots, of where his parents come from. He is proud of it,'” Lopez’s mother Margarita Lopez told The Washington Post.
Lopez being denied his diploma sparked small protests outside Asheboro High School. People were seen gathering around Lopez and carrying signs saying “Free Ever’s Diploma.”
In a statement dated June 4, the school said that the wearing of a flag of any kind is a violation of its dress code. It added that graduating students could opt to decorate their mortar boards, which is the only acceptable “deviation” from the dress code.
The school later updated its statement on Friday evening, saying: “Graduation is a milestone event and it is grossly unfair for one individual to diminish this event by violating the dress code.”
“This incident is not about the Mexican flag,” the school added in the statement.
The school said later on Friday night that Lopez’s diploma was ready for collection, but did not give a reason why its position had changed, wrote The Post.
The incident, however, led to the school receiving at least ten threats via email. According to local news organization WFMY News 2, one of the emails read: “I’m gonna shoot up this school if you don’t give that young man his diploma.”
The school has since deleted both its Twitter and Facebook accounts.
This is not the first time that students have been barred from sporting emblems of their heritage at their graduations because of schools’ dress codes.
In 2019, Oklahoma senior Tvli Birdshead was told he would not be able to wear a bearded cap and a feather to honor his Native American roots. In an incident last year, DeAndre Arnold, a Black Texas high-schooler of Trinidadian descent was told to cut off his dreadlocks or be banned from his graduation and prom.
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