One Arkansas high school graduate is reportedly suing her high school, claiming racial discrimination prevented her from becoming her school's sole valedictorian. 18-year old Kymberly Wimberly, a black student from the town of McGehee alleges she had the highest G.P.A. in her graduating class but was forced to share a "co-valedictorian" title with a white student she claims had a lower G.P.A.
The lawsuit alleges that the decision to make Wimberly share the title reveals a "pattern and practice of school administrators and personnel treating the African-American students less favorably than the Caucasian ones."
To add fuel to the fire, Wimberly's mother, who actually works for the McGehee school district, is alleging she overheard school officials say they wanted to avoid the "big mess" that would come about if Wimberly was slected to be sole valedictorian. Shine reports:
On May 10, the school's counselor told Wimberly's mother, Molly Bratton, who works as the McGehee school district's media specialist, that Wimberly had the highest GPA in the class of 2011. The school superintendent, Thomas Gathen, confirmed that she had been named valedictorian.
But a few hours later, Bratton overheard an employee saying that having Wimberly as valedictorian might cause a "big mess." And the next day the school's principal, Darrell Thompson, said "that he decided to name a white student as co-valedictorian," even though the other student's GPA was lower than Wimberly's, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court July 21.
Wimberly also asserts that even while she was pregnant and gave birth to her own child junior year, she took advanced placement and honors courses, earning only one B mark during her entire 4-years of high school.
The graduate reportedly told ABC News "my teachers thought I'd fall flat on my face, but I kept trying to succeed."
Now Wimberly is seeking punitive damages in addition to her school record being changed. Shine explains the allegations put forth in Wimberly's lawsuit:
"Defendants did not support African-American students, and did not want to see Wimberly, an African-American young mother, as valedictorian," the lawsuit alleges. In addition to $75,000 in punitive damages, Wimberly, who will be attending the University of Arkansas this fall, is asking that the school recognizes her as the only valedictorian of her class. No legal response has been filed by lawyers for the school district.
"I told [the co-valedictorian] this isn't fair. This is an administrative decision," Wimberly said in an interview with ABC News. In her lawsuit, she accuses the school of racial discrimination, saying that the district is more committed to advancing its white students than its black ones. (According to high-schools.com, there are 643 students at McGehee High School, and the student body is 50 percent black and 49 percent white.) "African-American students were not encouraged to take Honors or Advanced Placement classes," her complaint reads. "Caucasian students had to almost opt out (of advanced classes)."
Not surprisingly, school officials are denying race factored in to their decision to select a co-valedictorian. Do you think race played a role?
The ABC News report featured below explores other instances of black students who also cite suffering similar discrimination: