Black valedictorian sues Mississippi school district

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A black Mississippi high school graduate is suing her school district this week after she had to share valedictorian status with a white student.

According to a petition to the Cleveland, Mississippi School District, written by Jasmine Shepard’s mother, Sherry, “On May 19th, one day before graduation, my daughter Jasmine was name the Co-Valedictorian of the Cleveland High School Class of 2016, the traditional ‘white school’, along with a white student. The School has never had co-valedictorians, nor has there ever been a black one in its 110-year history.”

Shepard when on to note, “The Valedictorian is a meritorious distinction granted to the student with the highest Grade Point Average (GPA),” and explained that no one would address her concerns about her daughter having to share the distinction with another “white” student.

“It is my belief that the white student has a lower GPA than my daughter Jasmine,” she accused, despite having no proof, adding, “I feel that my daughter was forced to share the honor she earned outright, in spite of the dual-system obstacles causing her to work three times as hard, because the district prefers and caters to white students.”

The Washington Post reported Friday that Shepard was being discriminated against with a misleading headline, which read, “White student made ‘co-valedictorian’ with black student, despite having lower GPA, lawsuit claims”. Again, there is no proof that the other student had a lower GPA than Shepard did.

The Mississippi school district is calling the lawsuit “frivolous,” and confirms that both students had the same GPA, according to district attorney Jamie Jacks, who told the Post, “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.”

Shepard’s law suit asks for unspecified monetary damages and for Jasmine to be declared “sole valedictorian.”

In the article, the other valedictorian was identified in the suit only as “H.B.,” but Sherry Shepard said she is “the kindest-hearted, sweetest person.” Still, that won’t stop the woman from making sure that her daughter is the only one left standing at the end of the battle for valedictorian of 2016 at Cleveland High School.

Shepard and her mom have launched a “Justice for Jasmine” Facebook page which details; among other issues, their fight against the Cleveland school district.

“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 defendant (is) discriminated against,” according to the the lawsuit.

Jasmine’s mother is outraged that her daughter had to speak after the white student and claimed that Jasmine was supposed to walk behind the white student, until the proud mama spoke up against it.

“A child, when they earn honors, they are entitled to receive them,” she said, despite the fact that her daughter really did receive the honor she had earned. She then went on to accuse the Cleveland school district of having “no inclusion. When the district wants something, they just take it.”

After reading the slanted story, Washington Post readers have expressed their support for the young woman, affirming that she should not have to share the valedictorian title.

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