A TikTok video of a North Carolina graduating senior has gone viral after he was denied his diploma for wearing a Mexican flag over his graduation gown.
Adolfo Hurtado was filming his cousin, Ever Lopez, during the ceremony, watching him walk down the stage at Asheboro High School wearing a Mexican flag draped over his gown, when he appeared to get stopped by a faculty member.
Lopez was seen initially taking off the flag but kept it on after audience members encouraged him to do so, Hurtado said in the video. The ceremony was also livestreamed on Asheboro City School’s Facebook account.
“Sadly, he did not get the diploma. The teacher wants him to apologize — obviously he’s not going to do that,” Hurtado said in a separate video afterward.
Neither Lopez nor Hurtado responded to requests for comment Friday.
Alethea Hill, 20, whose brother is close friends with Lopez, said she and her family booed when they saw the encounter with the faculty member, who Hill identified as school principal Penny Crooks. Soon after, the crowd behind her also began to boo.
Lopez was allowed to receive a diploma holder after the ceremony but not his diploma, Hill said.
The student’s family members reached out to the district superintendent, who attended the ceremony, but they were told the decision was up to the principal. Eventually, his family talked with Crooks in her office. Though she was not in the room, Hill said she was told by family members that Lopez violated the dress code and was asked to apologize to receive his diploma.
After family members left the principal’s office, police officers were shown in one of Hurtado’s videos escorting them outside.
People who attended the ceremony and watched the videos are accusing school leaders of racism. But Asheboro City Schools said in a statement that the incident had been “misrepresented” across social media and that Lopez had violated the dress code, which does not allow flags to be worn.
They stressed the incident was “not about the Mexican flag.”
“We are disheartened by the many comments by those not present at the event, along with those by individuals who do not have all of the facts,” the district said.
Witnesses told local media that other students had decorated their caps and gowns but weren’t reprimanded. Students planned a protest at the high school Friday and a Change.org petition demanding Lopez be given his diploma received over 20,000 signatures.
The district said it would reevaluate its dress code and officials were working to “resolve the issue with the student and family so that he will receive his diploma.”
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Cynthia Silva reports for NBC Asian America, NBCBLK, NBC Latino and NBC Out.