After four years of nearly straight-As, honors and Advanced Placement classes, 18-year-old Kymberly Wimberly achieved the highest GPA at McGehee Secondary School southeast of Little Rock, Ark., according to a court complaint.
However, instead of awarding the student for her hard work and dedication, the school denied her the valedictorian status because she was Black, claims the document filed by Wimberly’s lawyer, John W. Walker.
According to the court document, this is not the first time this has happened in the school’s history:
“(The) defendant’s actions were part of a pattern and practice of school administrators and personnel treating the African-American students less favorably than the Caucasian ones…Until Wimberly, the last African-American valedictorian in the McGehee school district was in 1989.”
Although the high school is predominantly white, 46 percent of students are African-American.
Wimberly’s mother, Molly Bratton, said in the federal discrimination complaint that after her daughter had been told she would be the class valedictorian, she heard whispers of discontent over her daughter’s race.
According to an article in the Courthouse News Service and the court document itself, Bratton heard school personnel discussing that Wimberly’s valedictorian status might cause a “big mess.”
The next day, high school principal Darrell Thompson told the mother that he had decided to name a white student as “co-valedictorian,” even though Wimberly had a higher GPA and a press release had already been sent out to the local paper naming her in the position.
Despite Bratton’s protests, the school board would not hear her appeal on her daughter’s behalf.
Wimberly seeks punitive damages for violation of equal protection rights secured by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.