Black Student Barred from Being Valedictorian, Says Lawsuit

18-year-old Kymberly Wimberly is suing her McGehee, Arkansas public high school for barring her from being valedictorian because of her race. (As opposed to the equally unfair but way less depressing "funny name issue.") Kym's federal lawsuit claims she had the highest GPA in her class and was told she would be valedictorian, but got pushed out last minute for white students.

Wimberly's mother, who works at the school, says she overheard an official calling Kym's valedictorian status a "big mess." Courthouse News reports:

McGehee Secondary School is predominantly white, and 46 percent African-American, according to the complaint. [Wimberly's mother] Bratton says that the day after she heard the "big mess" comment, McGehee Principal Darrell Thompson, a defendant, told her "that he decided to name a white student as co-valedictorian," although the white student had a lower G.P.A.

Bratton says she tried to protest the decision to the school board, but defendant Superintendent Thomas Gathen would not let her speak, because she allegedly had "filled out the wrong form. Instead of 'public comments,' Gather [sic] said Bratton should have asked for 'public participation.'" The superintendent told her she could not appeal his decision until the June 28 school board meeting; graduation was May 13.

McGehee High School faced a similar lawsuit in 1983, when a black homecoming queen candidate challenged an election. Apparently the tiny town of 4500 has been trapped in a time warp of conflicts from 1960 for multiple decades, now. [Courthouse News, Justia, image via McGehee High School]