Black and White Students Forced to Share Valedictorian Honors at Formerly Segregated School, Lawsuit Alleges

Sherry Shepard claims her daughter Jasmine Shepard (pictured) was discriminated against by her school when forced to share her valedictorian title at graduation. (Photo: Facebook)

In a lawsuit recently filed in Mississippi a mother is claiming her daughter was discriminated against by her school. In her suit, Sherry Shepard of Cleveland, Mississipi, alleges that Jasmine Shepard was forced by her school to share her valedictorian title with a fellow student, even though the other student’s grade point average was lower than Shepard’s.

As reported in the Washington Post, the suit was filed early last week in federal court and points out the spotty history of the school system in Cleveland, Mississippi, as a source for the discrimination. In over 110 years, there has never been a black valedictorian at the school, and the report states, “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.”

Cleveland School District was recently ordered by a federal judge to desegregate its schools, some 60 years after the practice was found illegal in the “Brown v. Board of Education” case in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Official response from the school district calls the lawsuit “frivolous” and claims the students had identical GPAs. The choice to make the students co-valedictorians was in accordance with the school board policy, which is “racially neutral and fair to students,” an attorney for the Cleveland School District told the Washington Post.

Shepard points out that her daughter and the white student in question — who is not named in the suit — have known each other since middle school and that she is “the kindest-hearted, sweetest person.” At the same time, the suit is asking for Jasmine Shepard to be named the only valedictorian and seeks unspecified monetary damages.

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