Jasmine Shepard, a Mississippi high school student, was named her school’s first Black valedictorian in 2016. While the honor should have been a moment of high praise, a lawsuit filed by her mother alleges that the school forced her to share the award with a white student with a lesser GPA.
The Washington Post reports:
The day before Jasmine Shepard graduated from Cleveland High School in Cleveland, Miss., in May 2016, the school awarded her and a white student the title “co-valedictorian,” according to the suit filed Tuesday in federal court in the Northern District of Mississippi. This was a first in the 110-year history of the school, the suit said, and the decision was made.
“Prior to 2016, all of Cleveland High School’s valedictorians were white,” the suit says. “As a result of the school official’s unprecedented action of making an African-American student share the valedictorian award with a white student, the defendants discriminated against.”
An attorney for the Cleveland School District called the lawsuit “frivolous” and said the students “had identical grade point averages.”
“As such, under school board policy, they were both named valedictorian of their graduating class,” Jamie Jacks wrote in an email. “The district’s policy is racially neutral and fair to students.”
Adding an interesting wrinkle to the matter, a federal judged ruled recently that the Cleveland School District neglected to follow the law of the land and didn’t desegregate its schools until 50 years after it was mandated to do so.
Shepard’s mother maintains a Facebook page for her daughter calling attention to what their side feels was an injustice.