A North Carolina high school student was denied his diploma because he wore a Mexican flag on his graduation gown.
Lopez once donned a Mexican flag over his blue dress at Asheboro High School’s graduation ceremony on Thursday night.
Live footage of the ceremony shows the director asking him to take down the flag. After an unsuccessful attempt to remove him, he was presented with the holder of the diploma, which the other students received. But after passing through the stage, he was denied his actual diploma.
Lopez told ABC News: “When I went up there, I went to the handshake and I didn’t think about it and I heard her say, ̵
The incident caused outrage and led to a protest in front of the school on Friday. However, the school district insisted that Lopez’s actions “violated the dress code of the ceremony” and “the incident is not for the Mexican flag.”
Lopez said he carried the flag to honor his family as he was the first high school graduate in his close family.
“It means everything to me,” Lopez told ABC News, carrying the Mexican flag. “My parents, my whole family are from there. I did it for them because they had a difficult childhood; they didn’t get the scholarship I got, or they couldn’t go to school like me. So … presenting my flag and getting a diploma was really important to me, because I was actually doing it for my family. “
Lopez said the school had asked him to apologize as a condition of receiving his diploma.
“I don’t know why I have to apologize when I have to be heard because I haven’t done anything wrong,” Lopez said.
Lopez’s family was then escorted from the school property “at the request of the principal [Penny] Scammers, “Asheboro police told ABC News. Asheboro police officers worked on graduation in” approved quality outside the service. “
Lopez has not yet received his diploma.
A statement from schools in the city of Asheboro said that the code for wearing diplomas was shared with students some time ago and allowed students to decorate their diplomas, but “carrying a flag of any kind is a violation of the dress code.” In live footage from graduation, a number of students are seen with changes to their caps, including handwritten messages, drawings or flowers.
The school district said in a statement Friday that it supports “expressing our students’ heritage at the right time and place.”
“We continue to work to solve this problem with the student and his family so that he can get his diploma from Asheboro High School. He has worked very hard and we recommend him for this great achievement. We are confident in his abilities and we know that he he has a bright future ahead of him, “the statement added.
In a subsequent statement, the school district said: “This incident is not about the Mexican flag. Students were encouraged to express their identities by decorating their mortar boards. A number of students followed protocol and had a Mexican flag and other representations appropriately displayed during the ceremony. “
Lopez told ABC News that no one had ever discussed that carrying a flag would not be allowed.
On Friday, a group of about 30 people gathered in front of the high school to show support for Lopez, demanding that he receive his diploma. The online petition also collected more than 73,000 signatures since Saturday afternoon.
“Well, that’s crazy. I didn’t expect the whole community to come together like that,” Lopez said of the support. “I had just graduated from school. Somehow I was like I had fallen. I was like, ‘Dirty, I didn’t get my diploma and stuff.’ “… It’s crazy because the next day I woke up and I had people calling me saying,‘ Oh man, you have interviews, you have interviews, you have interviews. ’And I’m like‘ What? ’And then what shocked me the most, apart from the interviews, was the protest at my school because I didn’t know about it. “