A lawsuit filed in Arkansas alleges McGehee Secondary School named a white co-valedictorian because the initial valedictorian was black. The plaintiff, Kymberly Wimberly, said she got only one B throughout her high school career and took many Advanced Placement and honors courses. However, she alleges in her lawsuit the school’s “refusal to let her be sole valedictorian was part of a pattern of discrimination against black students.”
Wimberly says that despite earning the highest G.P.A. of the Class of 2011, and being informed of it by a school counselor, “school administrators and personnel treated two other white students as heir[s] apparent to the valedictorian and salutatorian spots.” Wimberly’s mother is the school’s “certified media specialist.” She says in the federal discrimination complaint that after her daughter had been told she would be valedictorian, the mother heard “in the copy room that same day, other school personnel expressed concern that Wimberly’s status as valedictorian might cause a ‘big mess.'”
McGehee Secondary School is predominantly white, and 46 percent African-American, according to the complaint. Bratton says that the day after she heard the “big mess” comment, McGehee Principal Darrell Thompson, a defendant, told her “that he decided to name a white student as co-valedictorian,” although the white student had a lower G.P.A.
Bratton says she tried to protest the decision to the school board, but defendant Superintendent Thomas Gathen would not let her speak, because she allegedly had “filled out the wrong form. Instead of ‘public comments,’ Gather [sic] said Bratton should have asked for ‘public participation.'” The superintendent told her she could not appeal his decision until the June 28 school board meeting; graduation was May 13.
First: I’ve never heard of a superintendent over a school board denying someone the opportunity to speak on an issue just because someone filled out the wrong form. While they technically may have a right to do that, it does not speak well of the superintendent and the board.
This makes me sick to my stomach. This young woman worked her ass off, took the initiative to take demanding AP and honors classes and studied her way to the top in order earn the valedictorian slot. And this principal has the nerve to wield his authority to keep the system of white privilege in place by appointing this student, who, according to the lawsuit, had a lower GPA than Wimberly.
If this school district and this superintendent gave the green light for the principal to do this because of the valedictorian’s race, this principal, this superintendent and this board of education need to all be thrown out of office. If this is indeed true, none of these people deserve to set foot in a classroom or have the privilege to work as an educator for the rest of their natural lives.