Co-valedictorian sees suit over race dismissed
A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Monday by a black 2011 graduate of McGehee High School saying she was forced to share the title of class valedictorian because of her race.
“The Court finds plaintiff has not come forward with evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that defendants’ decision to name co-valedictorians was intentional race discrimination,” U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright wrote in her order granting the defendants’ motion for summary judgment.
Plaintiff Kymberly Wimberly sued the district’s School Board, Superintendent Thomas Gathen and Principal Derrell Thompson, claiming the district’s decision to have her share the valedictorian title when she had the highest grade-point average in her graduating class was “part of a pattern and practice of school administrators and personnel treating the African-American students less favorably than the Caucasian students.”
But the district was following a policy that had been established in prior years when it awarded the title to two students, Monday’s order said.
Wimberly had 27 ½ credits and a grade-point average of 4.0943, which included all As in regular classes except for one B and As in three Advanced Placement classes, which carry greater value in calculating a grade-point average. The other student had the same grades except she had 1 ½ additional regular course credits, in which she received A grades, giving her a total grade-point average of 4.0893, the order said.
Under the district’s policy for determining class rank: “If two or more students take the same or equivalent course work and receive the same grades of A, a student with a greater number of courses will not be penalized,” the order said.
School counselor Ann Stobaugh testified that the policy, which started appearing in the student handbook in the 2006-07 school year, had been applied in previous years, the order said.
Stobaugh said she initially named Wimberly the only valedictorian in her class based on her higher gradepoint average, only adding the second student when that student’s mother brought the policy to her attention, Wright wrote.