The Latinx community has endured racist attacks for speaking Spanish in public but recently a young student experienced prejudice simply for literally wearing his national pride on his sleeve. A North Carolina high school student who was denied his diploma at graduation because he wore a Mexican flag to the ceremony, returned to Asheboro High School to pick up his diploma during a press conference organized by immigrant advocacy organization Siembra NC. Ever López arrived at his high school graduation ceremony on June 3 with a Mexican flag draped over his gown and as he walked to the stage with his classmates, he was pulled aside by the school’s principal and asked to remove the flag.
The incident was captured on video by Ever’s cousin, Adolfo Hurtado who posted it on TikTok, receiving nearly one million views in less than a week. In the video, Ever can be seen returning to his seat with his fist in the air after refusing to remove the flag.
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After the graduation ceremony concluded, students were directed to another area to receive their diplomas and Ever was told that he would not be receiving his because he “disrupted” the event. Ever and his family were reportedly escorted out of the principal’s office by police after questioning the school’s decision not to award him with the diploma.
The backlash was immediate after the video went viral with Adolfo posting multiple videos about the incident on TikTok, prompting members of the community to speak out in defense of Ever, and some accusing the school of discrimination and racism.
“This incident is not about the Mexican flag. Students were encouraged to express their identity by decorating their mortar boards. A number of students followed the protocol and had the Mexican flag and other representations appropriately displayed during the ceremony,” Asheboro City Schools wrote in an official statement the following day. According to Asheboro police, the school district received anonymous threats on Friday after the incident.
Ever’s mother Margarita Lopez worked with Siembra NC to arrange the news conference outside the school on Monday in conjunction with the arrangements the family had made with the school for Ever to pick up his diploma. “Because what happened on Thursday isn’t just about my son, it’s about our entire Latino community,” she said in Spanish at the press conference, according to NBC News. “As parents, we are so proud that he has taken on the honor and pride of where his roots are and where he comes from.” Ever’s mother also asserted that her family does not condone threats and/or violence against the school, and asked people to show their support in a “nonviolent” way.
Margarita also explained that she turned to Siembra NC to help her find a solution to the issue, to understand why the school involved the police and to request a public apology from the school, which Ever and his family still have not received. The Monday news conference was paused as Ever entered the school to pick up his diploma, and left the building with the diploma held high over his head after speaking with school administrators.
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“Hopefully, it does change, and we’re allowed to wear whatever we want,” Ever said to WRAL News. “I did what I had to do – represent, wear my flag and show my colors,” he said, explaining to members of the press that the school assured him they would re-evaluate the graduation dress code.