The following contains editorial content written by a retired Chief of Police and current staff writer for Law Enforcement Today.
ASHEBORO, NC- Rules are there for a reason. In Asheboro, North Carolina, one of the high school graduates decided to make a political statement by going up for his diploma with a Mexican flag draped over his gown, a violation of the graduation dress code.
Rightfully, the student was denied his diploma for flouting the rules. So what happened? Ten emailed threats to “shoot up” the high school. Welcome to 2021 America.
WGHP reports that according to Asheboro Police Chief Robbie Brown, school district employees received the ten threats via email, with several more being made through Facebook and Instagram.
Police said three emails were sent to the principal of the high school, while the other seven went to the district’s public information officer.
“I’m gonna shoot up this school if you don’t give that young man his diploma,” one of the emails read, according to Superintendent Dr. Aaron Woody.
No suspects have yet been identified.
The incident started on June 3 when the student, Ever Lopez walked across the stage with the Mexican flag draped over his shoulders, clearly trying to draw attention to himself.
He said he had been holding the flag throughout the ceremony, and then unfolded it and draped it across his shoulders as he walked up to get his diploma.
When he got up to the principal, she stopped him. Despite the fact that all graduates were given a copy of the graduation dress code prior to the ceremony, Lopez claimed shock when he was stopped.
“She was like, ‘You cannot be wearing that,’ and I was like—I was in shock,” Lopez told WGHP.
“I was like, ‘What?’ and she was like, ‘You can’t be wearing that flag, it’s a distraction.’ I was like, ‘There’s no way you’re telling me this now.’”
Lopez told WGHP he did receive his diploma jacket after the exchange, however said school officials wouldn’t give him his actual diploma when he went to receive it, which the school district says is false.
The district said Lopez’s diploma had been available for him to pick up since the day after the ceremony, June 4.
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According to the school district’s public information officer, Leigh Anna Marbert, an apology was never requested, expected or required, WGHP reported.
The school district also said that the “graduation dress code is clearly shared with students ahead of time, and the wearing of a flag of any kind is a violation of the dress code.”
Marbert further said that “the district strongly supports our students’ expressions of their heritage in the appropriate time and place.”
While the district has allowed students to decorate their mortar boards for the past two years, the district said that it had been made clear with the students that “this was the ONLY acceptable deviation from the standard cap and gown regalia,” WGHP said.
After the show put on by Lopez, the district said it may have to reconsider allowing students to decorate their mortar boards in the future.
WFMY reported that a number of social justice warrior groups had also gotten involved in the controversy, including Siembra NC and the NAACP.
They asked for the school to make changes to the dress code policy to be “more inclusive” of minority students. We are curious if they would be so inclined to allow a student to wear, oh a thin blue line flag? Probably not.
Lopez admitted that he had read the policy but claimed he didn’t see the reference about flags not being allowed. He also claimed that during the ceremony he had not been approached by any school officials telling him the flag wouldn’t be allowed when he reached the stage.
The full statement from Asheboro City Schools:
“First and foremost, we strongly support our students’ expressions of their heritage at the appropriate time and place. Our graduation dress code is clearly shared with students ahead of time, and the wearing of a flag of any kind is a violation of the dress code.
In the past two years, we have allowed students to decorate their mortarboards as a nod to their individuality and creativity. We are very clear with the students that this was the ONLY acceptable deviation from the standard cap and gown regalia.
Unfortunately we will now be reevaluating that decision for future senior classes in light of the situation that occurred last night.
We continue working to resolve this issue with the student and his family so that he will receive his diploma from Asheboro High School. He has worked very hard and we commend him on this great achievement We are confident in his abilities and we know he has a bright future ahead of him.
The accusations being made about our school and district are disheartening.
We work with each student daily to ensure they receive rigorous instruction, equitable opportunity, and compassionate care in a safe and inviting learning environment. Across our school. And district, we are passionate about seeing all students succeed.”
Marbert told WGHP:
“The heart of the issue is the fact that the student did not follow the established dress code for the event and detracted from the importance and the solemnity of the ceremony,” she said.
“Our dress code is in place to ensure the dignity of the event is upheld and is fair to all students. Graduation is a milestone event, and it is grossly unfair for one individual to diminish this event by violating the dress code.”
On cue, Lopez’s mother claimed racism played a factor in the incident, while claiming the school never provided guidelines or rules about the dress code, according to the Washington Post. This clearly flies in the face of what the district said about the incident.
“We feel it was an act of racism and of humiliation not only towards our family but to the entire Latino community here,” his mother said.
Cue the slip and fall, ambulance chasing attorneys. Benjamin Crump anyone?
Lopez ultimate got his diploma this past Monday, WTVD said.
As of this writing, nobody has been charged in connection with the threats to the school. The investigation is continuing.
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