Mexican flag

North Carolina High School Student Is Denied Diploma After Wearing Mexican Flag

He was wearing his flag with pride.

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Asheboro High School’s Ever Lopez was ready to graduate surrounded by those who have cheered him on into becoming the first member of his immediate family to graduate from high school, according to The New York Times. But instead of a joyous day full of excitement and rejoicing, the school denied Lopez his diploma because his Mexican flag was apparently a violation of the dress code.

The video below, taken by Adolfo Hurtado, shows Lopez approaching the front of the line and being met by principal Penny Crooks. What was supposed to be a simple handshake turned into Crooks admonishing Lopez for wearing the flag across his shoulders. Lopez kept his flag on and walked off stage, throwing a fist into the air and turning the boos for Crooks into cheers for Lopez.

Ever Lopez is the child of a Mexican immigrant family and was born in the United States. Wearing the flag as he walked across that stage was to be an unforgettable moment where he celebrated who he was with his closest friends and family. “The flag means everything to me and my family because it’s what is in our blood,” he said, per The New York Times. “It’s where we came from, and I’d do anything to represent.”

It only gets worse from here on out. Lopez thought that he was going to get his actual diploma after the ceremony, like the rest of his classmates. He wrong. Ms. Crooks further denied Lopez getting his diploma because he violated the dress code and because he “detracted from the importance and the solemnity of the ceremony.”

Excuse me? Lopez wasn’t bothering anyone with his flag. Sure, he might’ve violated your “dress code” but the overreaction to him wearing his flag over his shoulders is the crux of the problem. Principal Crooks decided to make an example out of Lopez in front of his friends and family and everyone else watching. And the pettiness that comes from that decision is evident in the way she dismissed Lopez.

But wait, there’s more! In a second video posted on TikTok, the principal is seen with police officers escorting Lopez and his family out of the school. And not just one cop. She had four cops. Talk about wildly egregious overkill to a situation that didn’t need to escalate to this point. She could be heard saying, “He and his parents can come back tomorrow, and we can talk about it.”

@dolfincosmetics#Racsit #Racism #Fyp #fy #foryoupage #americanschoolsystem♬ original sound – Adolfo Hurtado635

The time to talk about this is now, Ms. Crooks. You messed up, you made this a bigger incident covered in major news outlets, and you used your power against a brown Latinx individual and his family when you denied Lopez his diploma and then treated his family like they were criminals that needed to be run out of the school. Because I seriously doubt that this much of a stink would’ve been made if the student in question was white and was wrapped up in the flag of the United States of America.

It appears that Lopez will eventually receive his diploma. That’s not nearly enough.

Mr. Lopez’s mother, Margarita Lopez, said Ms. Crooks told her in an email on Sunday that her son could pick up his diploma this week. But Ms. Lopez said she and her son also wanted an apology.

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

Ms. Crooks chose to make this an issue. And in telling Lopez that his flag was unacceptable she was telling Latinx people that they were unacceptable. That’s why this is such a big deal and that’s why I wouldn’t accept the diploma without a formal apology from the district and Ms. Crooks herself. Because this isn’t the energy that we want or need in 2021. Do better, be better, and treat those around you with the respect you wish to get in return. Simple.

(image: Hugo Entreprenaur/Pexels)

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Lyra Hale
Lyra (She/Her) is a queer Latinx writer who stans badass women in movies, TV shows, and books. She loves crafting, tostones, and speculating all over queer media. And when not writing she's scrolling through TikTok or rebuilding her book collection.