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Black Valedictorian Not Allowed at Ark. HS?

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on July 27, 2011 6:42 AM

Kymberly Wimberly graduated from McGehee Secondary School, a school within the McGehee School District in McGehee, Arkansas. She graduated with one of the highest honors a high school student can have: valedictorian.

But, Wimberly ended up sharing the honor of being valedictorian with another student, and is now filing suit in federal court, reports CNN.

The reason behind her suit? She's claiming discrimination. Wimberly is African American, and the co-valedictorian that she shared the honors with is Caucasian. Not only that, but the co-valedictorian actually had a lower GPA than Wimberly, CNN reports.

According to the facts of the complaint, Wimberly's mother, who works as the media specialist for the school, was told that her daughter had the highest GPA in the class.

The same day, Wimberly's mother then heard staff talking about the valedictorian position, and that having Wimberly as a valedictorian would cause a "big mess." Wimberly had a baby during her tenure at McGehee Secondary School. The next day, the school decided to appoint the co-valedictorian who had a slightly lower GPA than Wimberly.

Wimberly's lawsuit is alleging that the school's actions violated the Fourteenth Amendment and violated the Arkansas State Constitution. The lawsuit demands a declaratory judgment against the "repeated practices of Defendants against its' African American students," a judgment that would make Wimberly the sole valedictorian, and punitive damages of $75,000.

Will Kymberly Wimberly's lawsuit be successful? It depends on what evidence she may produce at trial, or if the McGehee School District will decide to simply settle with the student. Wimberly was not just alleging discrimination against herself, she was also alleging that the school routinely did not challenge African American students and discriminated against them in terms of educational opportunity in the complaint.

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