Valedictorian Says She Was Stripped Of Title Because Of Her Race

An Arkansas high school student is suing her school after they made her share the valedictorian spot — allegedly because she is black.

According to Courthouse News Service, Kymberly Wimberly had the highest GPA at McGehee Secondary School outside of Little Rock. She was named valedictorian, but her mother says she then overheard school officials saying "that Wimberly's status as valedictorian might cause a 'big mess.'" The next day, a white student with a lower GPA was awarded the role of co-valedictorian. According to Wimberly, the school had already sent a press release to the local paper naming her as valedictorian — she says they then sent another naming only the white co-valedictorian. Now she's suing the school in federal court. Her complaint reads, in part,

Defendants did not support African-American students, and did not want to see Wimberly, an African-American young mother as valedictorian.

But for Wimberly's race, defendants would not have selected a student with a lower G.P.A. than Wimberly to also be a valedictorian.

The complaint also says McGehee principal Darrell Thompson told Wimberly's mom that he chose the co-valedictorian "after reading something in the handbook." This handbook is available online — its only requirements for valedictorian eligibility are the following:

For a student to be valedictorian or salutatorian, he/she must be an honor graduate.

Students must be continuously enrolled at McGehee Secondary School the last two semester without transferring during this time to be considered in class ranking or eligible for valedictorian or salutatorian status.

It's unclear whether the principal was referring to either of these requirements — the district has not yet responded to our request for comment. The complaint also alleges that "African-American students were not encouraged to take Honors or Advanced Placement classes. Caucasian students had to almost opt out of the honor's track." McGehee last had a black valedictorian in 1989.

View the full complaint here:

mcgehee_lawsuit725

Black Student Can't Be Valedictorian [Courthouse News Service]

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