Discrimination At The Top

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 - 10:23am

Former student alleges school district didn't want African-American as sole valedictorian.

A former high school student is suing Arkansas' McGehee School District over allegations of racism.

Kymberly Wimberly says she had the highest grade point average in her graduating class, but was named co-valedictorian because the district "did not want to see an African-American young mother as Valedictorian."

Wimberly's father, Oscar Wimberly, encouraged his daughter to file the suit.

"I'm an uneducated man, myself," Oscar said. "But I know the value of education. I preached this to my daughter every day: do good and get an education."

Oscar keeps a copy of his daughter's transcript.

It shows she earned straight A's through high school, except for a 'B' in English her junior year.

The aspiring medical student finished with a 4.09 GPA, first in her class of 94 students.

Wimberly claims it wasn't until after the school told her she was valedictorian that she found out she was sharing the honor with a white student that had a lower GPA.

"When she does that, and can't get credit for what she does, it upsets me," Oscar said. "And I think that would upset any father."

McGehee Superintendent Thomas Gathen wouldn't talk about the lawsuit Tuesday, but referred all questions to the district's policy for determining the valedictorian.

"It's not strictly a matter of GPA," Gathen said. "It has to do with course offerings as well."

The policy says GPA is weighed against course difficulty.

In Wimberly's case, she and another student tied for the top spot after the adjustment, so the school recognized co-valedictorians.

Gathen says the decision was based on policy.

The suit claims it was racially-motivated.

Oscar says his little girl deserves better.

"I would like to see her as the sole valedictorian," Oscar said. "I'd like to see the school records changed to indicate that."

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