DeKalb, IL — Ever Lopez was excited to walk across the stage to receive his high school diploma while also paying homage to his culture by wearing a Mexican flag over his graduation gown. But Lopez left without a diploma after the school administrators reacted against the wardrobe addition.
Lopez said he carried the flag in and draped it over his shoulders while he was seated near teachers, who didn’t mention the flag until he reached the stage.
“I just gotta represent,” Lopez said, The Courier-Tribune. “I did it for my family. They came over here to give me a better future.”
The ceremony held a special significance for Lopez because he’s the first in his immediate family to graduate.
When his name was called, he stepped up on stage, ready to receive his diploma. However, the principal wouldn’t hand it over and spoke with him quietly as a line of students waited behind him. After a few seconds, he walked off the stage without his diploma.
Lopez said the administration told him he was being a distraction. But a statement from the North Carolina school says he was violating a dress code.
After the ceremony, Lopez and his parents were called into the principal’s office. Principal Penny Crooks said that he could receive his diploma if he apologized, Lopez said.
"I ain't apologizing for nothing," Lopez said, according to The Courier-Tribune,
after the encounter. "It's you who should be apologizing. You're the one doing wrong."
His mother, Margarita Lopez, cried: “For me, that's not fair. That's something for racists.”
The incident has gained traction on social media with comments over Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and TikTok. Supporters have started a petition called “Give this man his diploma” on Change.org , which had more than 100,000 signatures as of Wednesday.
“Now I feel joy because I have everybody supporting me,” Lopez said, according to The Courier-Tribune.