The rules of picking a school’s valedictorian are pretty straightforward. The student with the highest GPA wins. Unfortunately, that may not have been the case at Cleveland High School in Cleveland, Miss.
The mother of Jasmine Shepard claims her daughter was forced to share valedictorian honors with a white student who had a lower GPA in a lawsuit filed against the school district. The school denies this and claims the students GPAs were identical, but Shepard’s mother, Sherry, has a different story, according to The Washington Post.
“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.”
Shepard’s claim had added weight when placed in the context of the area’s racial history. For starters, Jasmine was the school’s first-ever Black valedictorian in its 110-year history. On top of that, the school system was recently cited in a federal ruling that it had failed to desegregate its schools in 50 years.
“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 in a statement 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.”
When Jasmine graduated in 2016, she was also selected to speak after her white classmate and was scheduled to walk behind her before she objected. Shepard still maintains a “Justice for Jasmine” Facebook page to fight on her daughter’s behalf.