Valedictorian says school changed GPA to allow white student top honors

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - An African-American girl from Mississippi is suing her school district after she earned co-valedictorian honors.

Jasmine Shepard and her family said Cleveland High School awarded co-valedictorian honors in 2016 for the first time in school's 110-year history.

The lawsuit accuses Cleveland School District of breaking with school policy to ensure that the school would still have a white person as valedictorian.

Cleveland High School has never had an African-American valedictorian. However, in 2016, Shepard said she earned the highest GPA in her graduating class.

That would normally entitle a student to be the valedictorian.

However, Shepard's legal team said the school deliberately changed the way it calculates GPA in order to create a tie for highest GPA in the class.

Former students and Cleveland residents said they're interested in learning what a judge says about the case.

"I hope if they had the same GPA that they need to share it, but if they didn't, the one with the higher GPA should've gotten it," Jeremy Vardaman said.

Cleveland School District's lawyer called the suit "frivolous," but could not expand on details in the case.

Cleveland School District representatives did not reply to WMC Action News 5's request for comment on this story.

Earlier this year, a federal judge demanded the school district desegregate. A move coming after a decades-long legal battle.

Below is a copy of the lawsuit the Shepard family filed against Cleveland School District:

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