By David Glenn Cox
The Centers for Disease Control are investigating an outbreak of stupid in North Carolina. The first cases were reported when county Republicans wanted vending machines removed from county property over political differences. Now an outbreak at a local Asheboro high school graduation has been marred by more confirmed cases. Experts fear North Carolina could be on the cusp of a full-blown stupid pandemic. Ever Lopez, 18, the suspected child in this affair was born in Mexico. His parents never got the opportunity to go to High school. Young Ever wanted to show his family what he had accomplished, and signal to them by draping a Mexican flag over his shoulders for the nine whole seconds as he walked across the stage.
Now Ever is the suspected child because of his High school Administrators. The people who give high school a bad name wanted to withhold his diploma over a dress code violation. We all know this person; mine was Coach Billy Livings. He walked the halls whistle always at the ready hanging around his neck. An undercover superhero crime fighter righting the wrongs of the High School world and stamping out smoking in the boy’s room one butt at a time. “Ah Coach, it’s the awards banquet you can take the whistle off.” Ronnie Van Zant called his Lynyrd Skynyrd.
My mother grew up in an Irish ghetto in Chicago and said she could go six blocks in any direction to get beaten up by a different ethnic group. It was a 1940s Bing Crosby movie, “Gee Fadda, me and the boys wanted to play basketball after choir practice.” My mother didn’t need an Irish flag over her shoulders for graduation. Everyone there was Irish. So, a minority kid wants to show his ethnic heritage and his pride. (No children were killed in the making of this graduation.) No lives permanently damaged. But look out! Cheese it! It’s the high school police, lights and sirens blaring. “All right kid, I’m gonna need you to pull it over to the side of the road. Just where do you think you’re going dressed like that?”
The Breakfast Club, “I got you, Bender.” You ain’t out of here yet. You might even be six feet away from out of here yet, but you ain’t out of here yet. Colorado had these public service announcements on TV with a young and hip looking woman. Explaining how her trip into the mountains was ruined because someone in the campground was smoking MARIJUANA! (Oh, the humanity!) The mountains, the vistas and the beauty of Colorado nature all ruined by a single joint. I wonder if she told anyone on the trip with her about it more than five or six times? Have you not heard the song? “Colorado Rocky Mountain High” its not just a song title, it’s an instruction manual. If your trip to the mountains was spoiled because someone smoked a joint. You might be a high school administrator and maybe need a few hits off that number yourself.
Drop the needle on that scratchy 1953 copy of Pomp and Circumstance. Cue Principal for the same speech he’s given three years in a row. Remember sports teams, state titles and academic honors. If it is cold turn on the air conditioning, it its hot, turn it off. If it’s raining, open all the doors to the auditorium and if it is stifling close them. These are the things you remember from high school graduation more than the kid with the Mexican flag over his shoulders. Who knows, it might start a tradition at the school. Administrators acting badly day and they could make it an annual event. “Wait a minute, stop the music! There is a library book missing and nobodies graduating from here until we find it! The following students still owe money in the lunchroom. “
I entered high school hopeful and optimistic, Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney going to the sock hop in my old jalopy. I left a bedraggled inmate from Devil’s Island scratching and clawing my escape. I loved learning but hated what high school had become. A teacher sent me to the office on an errand (really) and then insisted I needed a hall pass to return to his class. The office wouldn’t give me a hall pass because I didn’t have one when I first came in. Don’t speak the name of the Lord god Jehovah or traverse the world without a hall pass or you shall be stoned to death.
Rather than just let it go. Rather than just forget about it. Asheboro Administrators decided to withhold Ever Lopez’s high school diploma. Big man picking on a kid. But then news of the event and the over reaction became national news. The high school had to take down their Facebook and twitter accounts. Threats began to roll in as what could have been nothing becomes a threat to their future academic careers. School boards generally disapprove of network television reporters crowding their hallways and seeking interviews.
Quietly, the Asheboro administrators gave Ever Lopez his diploma in the face of mounting pressure. Time marches on but high school never changes. After four years of telling children to behave like adults Asheboro administrators refuse their own advice. “We got rules you got to follow or bam! You’re out! Even the slightest deviation from the rules and bam! You’re out! Dress code violations are serious business mister and will be punished to the fullest extent of the law. I wonder how the administrators would have reacted to a Union Jack or an Irish flag over Paddy Murphy’s shoulders. Or the flag of Kenya or South Africa? Was it the cloth that created a dress code violation or was it what the cloth represented that created a dress code violation?
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