Black Graduates Forced To Share Top Spots With White Classmates

Two Black students at a Mississippi high school were forced to share the valedictorian and salutatorian honors with two white classmates last week after a grade point average recalculation was made by the school. According to Mississippi Today, Ikeria Washington and Layla Temple were initially deemed to be the valedictorian and salutatorian of West Point High School's latest graduating class, then a white parent questioned whether school officials gave the awards based on guidelines laid out in the student handbook.

After a recalculation, the superintendent, Burnell McDonald, named two white students as co-valedictorian and co-salutatorian on the day of graduation.

The discrepancy came down to GPA (grade point average) and QPA (quality point average), with QPA being on a 4.0 scale and GPA on a 0-100 scale. The superintendent reviewed how valedictorians were previously determined and found that it was based on GPA only. A newly-hired guidance counselor, McDonald explained, improperly calculated students’ averages based on QPA, leading to the other students getting added to the top spots. 

“If someone assumes I was discriminatory in my decisions, they are absolutely wrong,” McDonald told the outlet in a phone interview. “I don’t know if you can tell on the phone, but I’m African American myself… This is not based on who the parents are, the race of the kids –– this is based on doing what’s right for all students.”

The Black students’ parents, Angela Washington and Lakira Temple, met with the principal, and other district officials and told Mississippi Today they were given a different explanation. 

“I’m still baffled,” Washington said, adding that in the meeting officials told them their children would be given the top honors. “What it looks like is because the handbook doesn’t specifically say GPA (grade point average) or QPA (quality point average), to make the other happy, he changed the rules on his own.”  

Washington requested a meeting with the school board later this month. 

Photo: Getty Images 

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