Jamel K. Donnor, Associate Professor of Education, William & Mary
Two Black students – Ikeria Washington and Layla Temple – were named valedictorian and salutatorian at West Point High School in Mississippi in 2021. Shortly afterward, two white parents questioned whether school officials had correctly calculated the top academic honors.
Ultimately, the school superintendent named two white students as “co-valedictorian” and “co-salutatorian” on the day of graduation.
High school seniors with the highest GPA in their graduating class are chosen to be valedictorians and are often responsible for delivering the graduating speech. Salutatorians, who are high school seniors with the second-highest GPA in their graduating class, often give the opening remarks.
The superintendent attributed the mix-up to a new school counselor who was given incorrect information on how to calculate class rankings.
As an educational researcher who focuses on race and inequality, I am aware that the controversy at West Point High School is by no means isolated.
A history of overlooking Black valedictorians
Back in 1991 a federal judge in Covington, Georgia, resolved a dispute a Black high school senior had with a white student over who gets to be valedictorian by making them share the honor.
Then in 2012 in Gainesville, Georgia, another Black valedictorian was also forced to share the honor with a white student. Later, the white student’s family asked the school to drop his candidacy from the academic honor.
In 2011, Kymberly Wimberly, a Black student in Little Rock, Arkansas, had her valedictorian honor stripped away by her principal to be given to a white student with a lower GPA. Wimberly’s lowest grade during all four years of high school was a B. In the rest of Wimberly’s courses, honors and Advanced Placement courses, she received A’s.
In her lawsuit, Wimberly claimed that a day after being informed that she was the valedictorian for McGehee High School, the principal told her mother, Molly Bratton, that he “decided to name a white student as co-valedictorian.”
Read the complete article at: Yahoo