A graduating Arkansas high school senior claims her school denied her valedictorian status because she is black, despite boasting the highest GPA in her class. According to the court document filed by her attorney, 18-year-old Kymberly Wimberly would have been the first black valedictorian of McGehee Secondary School since 1989. Forty-six percent of students in the school are black, according to the Huffington Post.
Wimberly’s mother, Molly Bratton, said she heard school personnel say giving Wimberly valedictorian status would cause “a big mess.” Subsequently, McGehee’s principal Darrell Thompson told Bratton that he was naming a white “co-valedictorian.” The school board would not hear Bratton’s appeals.
In an interview with the McGehee Dermott Times-News, District Superintendent Thomas Gathen said, “It’s not a race issue; it’s an academic issue.” He went on to explain that Wimberly and the co-valedictorian had identical grades, Wimberly had fewer credits, giving her the higher GPA. Gathen said school district policy was designed to keep students who take a greater number of credits from being penalized.
“We followed to the letter our district policy in designating our valedictorians,” Gathen said.
The federal discrimination complaint seeks punitive damages for violation of equal protection rights secured by the 14th amendment of the U.S. constitution.