Co-vale­dic­to­rian sees suit over race dis­missed

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - EVIE BLAD

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.

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