Mississippi HS Slammed for Making Black Valedictorian Share Honors With White Classmates

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A Mississippi high school has under fire for allegedly forcing its top students, who were both Black, to share honors with two white students at the last minute.

According to Mississippi Today, Ikeria Washington and Layla Temple, two Black students at the high school, were named valedictorian and salutatorian of their class at a senior awards ceremony.

The announcement was soon challenged by a white parent who asked school officials whether they were following guidelines in the school handbook in deciding on the top students.

Shortly after the inquiry, Superintendent Burnell McDonald named two other students as co-valedictorian and co-salutatorian on Thursday morning, the day of graduation. The two new students were white.

He denies allegations of racism. McDonald told the publication that the high school guidance counselor was new to the school and was given incorrect information about how to determine the designations.

He said the counselor selected the two students based on quality point average (QPA), measured on a 4.0 scale, instead of a strict numerical average of the student’s semester grades, which the district defines as its grade point average (GPA).

After a lengthy word sandwich about how the student’s designations has been miscalculated, he added: “If someone assumes I was discriminatory in my decisions, they are absolutely wrong. 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 — it’s based on doing what’s right for all students.”

The school district defended Washington’s decision and released the following statement:

“There are two methods to determine a student’s class rank. The first is Quality Point Average, or QPA. The second is Grade Point Average, or GPA,” the statement reads. “The two students with the highest GPA are Dominic Borgioli and Emma Berry. The WPCSD feels it necessary to recognize all four seniors at graduation.”

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