In speaking to ABC News, Lopez said Asheboro High School Principal Penny Crooks stopped him for a brief moment before he exited the stage carrying the diploma holder. According to Lopez, Crooks told him he couldn’t wear the flag. The result? When Lopez went to get his diploma after the ceremony (again, a norm for graduations), he was told he wasn’t getting the diploma because he violated the dress code.
You can see that first video here on Twitter, as well.
As seen in a second video, also posted to TikTok by Hurtado, Crooks, along with four police officers, appears to escort the senior and his family out of the school after the ceremony has ended. “He and his parents can come back tomorrow, and we can talk about it,” Ms. Crooks is heard saying in the video, adding “Go on.”
The Asheboro City School district issued a statement on Friday, reading in part that while the schools “strong support” students’ “expression” of heritage in the “appropriate time and place,” a graduation dress code is given to students ahead of time, and “the wearing of a flag of any kind is a violation of the dress code.” The statement asserts that: “This incident is not about the Mexican flag.”
Margarita Lopez, Lopez’s mother, talked to The Washington Post about her son’s choice to wear the flag and what it meant to her to watch him graduate. “When I saw him walk with our country’s flag on his shoulders, I felt immensely proud and thought, ‘This boy was born here and he is not ashamed of his roots, of where his parents come from. He is proud of it,'” she told the outlet, adding that when she learned the school refused to give him the diploma certificate, she felt “rage and shame” at the same time.
Also speaking to the Post, Hurtado brought up the applause his cousin received during the graduation ceremony. “All his peers in the crowd were clapping and some teachers were clapping … If wearing this flag was so disruptive, who did it cause a disruption to? Because no one in the crowd seemed to care,” he told the outlet.
In speaking to ABC News, Lopez made it clear his intention wasn’t to cause a disruption but to honor his family. He told the outlet that his parents and “whole family” are from Mexico, adding, “I did it for them because they had a rough childhood, they didn’t get the scholarship that I got, or they didn’t get to go to school like I did.” As reported by The New York Times, Lopez would have been the first member of his immediate family to graduate from a U.S. high school.
The school district told ABC News that as of Sunday, Lopez’s diploma is available for pickup, and has been since Friday. What does the family want at this point? As Lopez’s mother told the Times, she and her son want an apology. “To me, this was an act of racism,” she told the outlet. “Not just to my son but to the entire Hispanic community.”
On Monday, June 7 the family actually held a press conference, which you can check out via a live stream courtesy of ABC News.
Lopez has garnered an enormous amount of support on Twitter, including by at least one name progressives will likely recognize.
You can watch brief interview clips with Lopez below.
Update: Lopez received his diploma on Monday, as reported by local outlet WRAL.