A recent high school graduate’s mother has filed a federal lawsuit on her daughter’s behalf against a Mississippi school district after she was forced to share the school’s valedictorian title with a white classmate, who they allege had a lower GPA.
Jasmine Shepard and a white student, identified as “H.B,” in court documents, were named “co-valedictorians” the day before they graduated from Cleveland High School, says The Washington Post.
Shepard is the first Black valedictorian in the school’s history.
According to lawsuit papers, “Prior to 2016, all of Cleveland High School’s valedictorians were white. 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.”
Not surprisingly, the school district and their lawyer believe the lawsuit is “frivolous” and claim that both students had “identical grade point averages.”
“As such, under school board policy, they were both named valedictorian of their graduating class,” Jamie Jacks wrote the newspaper in an email. “The district’s policy is racially neutral and fair to students.”
Not true, says Shepard’s mother Sherry Shepard.
She told the Post the following: “These children have been attending school with each other since middle school. We know the schedule, we know what they take, and we have a good idea where the discrepancy lies.”
To add insult to injury, the teen’s mother also claims that her daughter was asked to walk behind the white student at the ceremony and speak after her—two requests the Shepards strongly objected to. Thankfully, the school changed their mind and at least had Shepard walk in front.
Their suit asks for monetary damages and for Shepard to be declared the class’ “sole valedictorian,” the Post noted.
This particular Mississippi school district is no stranger to serious accusations of racial bias.
Last year, a federal judge ruled that the Cleveland School District failed to desegregate its schools approximately 50 years” after being ordered to do so. Ultimately, the judge forced the schools to be integrated, which led to many protests and even the district trying to fight the ruling.