A North Carolina high school graduate who was denied his diploma for wearing a Mexican flag during the ceremony formally got his degree Monday.
Ever Martinez Lopez, 18, picked up his diploma Monday at Asheboro High School, after the teen was denied his sheepskin Thursday for allegedly violating the school’s dress code.
“I’m feeling so grateful now that I got what I deserved,” the teen told reporters. “It really means a lot.”
Lopez said he was calm and held “his head high” during the meeting with the school’s principal, Penny Crooks, who denied the teen his diploma as he wore the Mexican flag draped across his shoulders, video shows.
“I knew that I was going to go in there and fight hard for it, and at the end, we came out with it,” Lopez said.
Lopez said he had no regrets about donning the flag and thanked the community for supporting him. He said he asked for an “explanation” Monday from Crooks as to why it happened, while denouncing reported threats of violence in the aftermath of the denial.
“She said she was going to re-evaluate [the policy],” Lopez told reporters. “And hopefully it does change and we’re allowed to wear whatever we want.”
Prior to getting his diploma, Margarita Lopez told reporters outside her son’s school she wanted an explanation from Crooks. Lopez said she and her husband were beaming with pride Thursday as they watched their son wrap up his high school experience, but “got instantly choked up” when he was stopped by the principal.
Lopez said that before the meeting with Crooks, she had not received an explanation from district officials of the move, despite two statements indicating the decision was due to dress code violations.
“Ever has worked hard to get this diploma,” Lopez said in Spanish, adding that her son was proud to show off his Mexican heritage.
Lopez said district officials also owe her son an apology along with his hard-earned diploma.
“Because it wasn’t just my son she offended,” Lopez said in reference to Crooks’ decision.
The teen did not speak before entering the school to meet with Crooks on the refused diploma, which district officials have said was “not about” the teen’s Mexican flag.
Lopez was told he had to call his parents after the incident, which left him “utterly humiliated,” according to Kelly Morales, executive director of Siembra NC, an immigration advocacy group that hosted the press conference.
“He wasn’t trying to hide it,” Morales said of the teen’s Mexican pride, adding that it initially elicited praise from other administrators and students.
Lopez’s background is “something to be proud of” and worth fighting for, Morales said.
District officials, meanwhile, confirmed in a statement to The Post that Lopez picked up his diploma Monday.
“As with all graduates, we wish him well and we will continue to serve our community in ways that help all young people meet their full potential,” read a statement provided by spokeswoman Leigh Anna Marbert.
Marbert said the district’s “multiple attempts” to reach Lopez’s family over the weekend were unsuccessful.
“Unfortunately, we’ve received no response,” Marbert wrote.
The initial decision prompted swift blowback online and led to 10 threats of violence at the school, including one person who threatened to “shoot up” the campus if Lopez didn’t get his diploma, the Courier-Tribune reported.
Lopez’s mother, meanwhile, denounced the reported threats or anyone who called for violence against Crooks.
“To be clear, we’re not in agreement with any violence,” Margarita Lopez said in Spanish prior to walking into her son’s school.