A North Carolina high school senior was denied a diploma after walking up to the stage with a Mexican flag draped over his gown.
Ever Lopez can be seen in footage crossing the podium at Asheboro High School while wearing the flag before pausing as he is spoken to by school principal Penny Crooks.
During the conversation he briefly begins to remove the flag, prompting cheers from the crowd to turn into boos.
Livestreamed video footage from the ceremony shows the principal ask him to take the flag off.
After an unsuccessful attempt to take it off, he was handed his diploma holder, which the other students also received. But after walking across the stage, he was denied his actual diploma.
Lopez told ABC News, “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.’
And I was in shock and confused. I was like, ‘What?’ She was like, ‘The flag. You can’t wear that.'”
The incident has sparked outrage and led to a protest outside the school Friday.
However, the school district insists that Lopez’s actions “violated the ceremony’s dress code” and “the incident is not about the Mexican flag.”
Afterward, Lopez’s family was escorted off the school property “after a request was made by Principal [Penny] Crooks,” Asheboro police told ABC News. Asheboro police officers were working the graduation in “an approved off-duty capacity.”
Lopez has still yet to receive his diploma.
Asheboro City schools said in a statement that the graduation dress code was shared with students ahead of time and allowed for students to decorate their graduation caps, but “the wearing of a flag of any kind is a violation of the dress code.”
Lopez said he wore the flag to honor his family as he’s the first to graduate from high school in his immediate family.
North Carolina student denied H.S. diploma after wearing a Mexican flag over his gown at graduation https://t.co/YAoaz0QzGV— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) June 6, 2021
Lopez said the school asked him to apologize as a condition of receiving his diploma.
“I’m not apologizing for anything,” Lopez told the Courier-Tribune. “You should be apologizing.” It’s you who hurts.
Her mother, Margarita Lopez, exclaimed, “To me, that’s not fair. This is something for racists.