Black Student Sues High School After Seemingly Racist Act Cost Her A College Scholarship
Olecia James claims her high school made a white student class salutatorian over her despite worse grades.
May 01, 2019 at 5:22 pm
A Mississippi high school that only recently desegregated is now being sued by a Black student who claims the school named a white student with a lower GPA class salutatorian.
Olecia James told The Washington Post that Cleveland Central High first tried to lower her grades unilaterally so that it could make a white student salutatorian, but when she protested the move, administrators backed off.
James fought to keep her 4.41 GPA, but a white student was still named salutatorian despite his 4.34 GPA. The school's decision cost James a salutatorian's scholarship to the University of Mississippi, and she instead had to attend Alcorn State University. She just finished her freshman year and is studying mass communications.
“I knew what I had worked for,” the 18-year-old told the Post. “I knew what the other East Side students had worked hard for. To see it taken away was heartbreaking.”
In the suit filed in Mississippi’s Northern District, James and her lawyers say the school, "in their angst to prevent white flight, named W.M., a white male student, as salutatorian of the inaugural class of Cleveland Central High School in 2018, a position he had not earned, and in doing so, discriminated against Olecia James, a Black female who had earned the position.”
Cleveland Central High was created in 2017 after a federal judge said the Cleveland School District was running a segregated system. There was one high school on the white side of the town and another for the Black neighborhood. Both schools were combined to comply with the lawsuit and create Cleveland Central High.
James' lawsuit says district officials were concerned about "white flight" and wanted to make sure that white students got the top spots in each class. They tried to lower the grades of Black students by awarding more points for "challenging classes." All of the students that previously went to the Black high school had their GPAs lowered while none of the white students suffered.
Unfortunately, this is not the only lawsuit of this kind that the school is facing. There is another one against the high school working its way through the court system from a Black student who claims the school made her co-valedictorian with a white student who also had a lower GPA in 2017.
James is seeking monetary damages as well as a declaration that she was salutatorian. She also wants the school's policies toward Black students to change.
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