Black Graduate Forced to Share Valedictorian Honor With White Student Who Did Not Earn It

A black teenager named Kymberly Wimberly who had a baby during her junior year, yet managed to earn the highest grade-point average at her high school, is suing an Arkansas school district, contending she was discriminated against when she was not allowed to be sole valedictorian.

Principal Darrell Thompson at McGehee Secondary School southeast of Little Rock, Ark., had already sent out a press release announcing to the local community that Kymberly had earned the Valedictorian honor when Kymberly’s mother, Molly Bratton, says on May 10 she overheard school staff talking in the copy room about how Wimberly’s status as valedictorian might cause a “big mess.”  The lawsuit contends that the following day Thompson informed Bratton that he had decided to add a white student with a lower GPA as co-valedictorian.

Wimberly graduated in May after taking challenging AP and honors coursework and earning all “A’s” with the exception of one “B.”  She and the white student who had been named co-valedictorian both spoke at the commencement.

“Even though she had the highest grade point average (GPA) in her class, Defendants forced Wimberly to share the title of Valedictorian with a white student,” the lawsuit alleges. “Defendants’ actions were part of a pattern and practice of school administrators and personnel treating the African-American students less favorably than Caucasian students.”

Blacks represent about 46 percent of the 500-plus student body at McGehee Secondary. Prior to Wimberly, the last African American valedictorian in the McGeHee school district was in 1989.

Molly Bratton contends the superintendent wouldn’t allow her to speak to the school board to challenge the decision that forced her daughter to share the valedictorian honor. The lawsuit seeks punitive damages and requests that school records be changed to show Wimberly as sole valedictorian.

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