A Mississippi mother filed a federal lawsuit against her daughter’s high school district after she claims the school forced her to share the title of valedictorian with a white student whose grade point average was lower.
Jasmine Shepard graduated from Cleveland High School in May 2016 and in the school’s 110 year history, Jasmine became the first ever African American to receive the honor of valedictorian. However, according a the suit filed last week in a federal court Jasmine and the white student were given the title as “co-valedictorian.”
“Prior to 2016, all of Cleveland High School’s valedictorians were white,” the suit reads. “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 defendants discriminated against.”
Lawyers for Cleveland High School quickly went on the defense and claim the suit, filed by Sherry Shepard, Jasmine’s mother, is “frivolous.” Attorney Jamie Jax alleges the student’s GPA’s are “identical.”
“As such, under school board policy, they were both named valedictorian of their graduating class,” Jax wrote in an email to The Washington Post. “The district’s policy is racially neutral and fair to students.”
Shepard claims the students have been together since middle school and the GPA’s are easy to calculate.“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.”
In an unspecified amount, Shepard is asking for her daughter to be declared as the “sole valedictorian.”