Jasmine Shepard Forced To Share Valedictorian Title With White Student With A Lower GPA
Most of us have a pretty clear understanding of how the choosing of valedictorian works. There’s really no choosing at all. The person who has earned the highest GPA takes the crown. But according to a recent lawsuit filed by the family of Jasmine Shepard, Cleveland High School was a bit fuzzy on the whole process.
According to The Washington Post, the day before Jasmine Shepard was set to graduate from a Cleveland, Mississippi high school, in May 2016, she learned that she and another White student would share the co-valedictorian title.
But Shepard and her family believe this was simply a ploy to keep Jasmine from receiving the honor alone, that the White student’s GPA was not as high as Jasmine’s.
Jasmine’s mother Sherry Shepard told The Post, the small community made it easy to calculate the students’ GPA.
“These children have been attending school with each other since middle school,” she said. “We know the schedule, we know what they take, and we have a good idea where the discrepancy lies.”
The lawsuit also notes that this is the first time in the school’s 110 year history that a student has been made to share the valedictorian title.
“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.”
In an email, Jamie Jacks, 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, The district’s policy is racially neutral and fair to students.”
The case is made even more interesting considering the fact that a federal judge had to make an official ruling to desegregate The Cleveland School District, in 2016, 62 years after Brown v. Board.
The judge wrote “The delay in desegregation has deprived generations of students of the constitutionally-guaranteed right of an integrated education,” U.S. District Court Judge Debra M. Brown wrote last year. “Although no court order can right these wrongs, it is the duty of the district to ensure that not one more student suffers under this burden.”
Shepard’s mother said that Jasmine was forced to speak after the White co-valedictorian and had she not protested, she would have had to walk behind her during the ceremony.
“A child, when they earn honors, they are entitled to receive them. There is no inclusion in the Cleveland school district. When the district wants something, they just take it.”
The suit asks for unspecified monetary damages and for Jasmine to be declared sole valedictorian.