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High school student who wore Mexican flag at graduation receives diploma

School denies incident was about Mexican flag
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Posted at 11:29 AM, Jun 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-07 18:15:14-04

ASHEBORO, N.C. — A high school student in North Carolina who was denied his diploma after wearing a Mexican flag over his gown at his graduation ceremony has now received his diploma.

According to the Associated Press, Lopez walked out of Asheboro High School on Monday with the diploma.

The moment at Asheboro High School was captured on video last Thursday and posted on TikTok by the student’s cousin.

In the clip, you see 18-year-old Lopez take the stage and pause as he speaks with school officials. When the crowd puts together what’s happening, they start booing. And then, as Lopez exits the stage, the crowd starts cheering for him and he raises his fist up in the air.

In an interview with The New York Times, Lopez said he wore the flag because he’s proud of his Mexican roots. He was born in the U.S. to Mexican-immigrant parents, and he was set to become the first member of his immediate family to graduate high school, The Times reports.

The school’s graduates actually received an empty diploma holder at the ceremony and were asked to pick up their diploma afterward. It was then that Lopez was told he was being denied his diploma, his family told The Times.

Asheboro City Schools issued two separate statements Friday, denying that the incident was about the Mexican flag.

In the first statement, the district said it strongly supports its students expressing their heritage “in the appropriate time and place,” but that its graduation dress code was shared with students ahead of time and wearing a flag of any kind was a violation. The district said the only acceptable deviation would be decorating mortarboards.

The district said it was working to resolve the issue with Lopez and his family so that the student would receive his diploma, which he did on Monday.

In its second statement, the district said the incident is being misrepresented on social media.

“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,” wrote the district. “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.”

Lopez’s mother, Margarita Lopez, told WXII on Friday evening that her son had still not been given his diploma and that the family hadn’t been given the chance to sit down with school officials to talk about the incident. The family has said they want an apology for the ordeal.

The student’s mother also told The Times that she sees the incident as an “act of racism” to the entire Hispanic community.