Lawsuit claims white high school student was named salutatorian over black student with better grades

Lawsuit claims white high school student was named salutatorian over black student with better grades

An African American woman claims in a lawsuit filed last week that her school district named a white student salutatorian of their graduating class, even though the plaintiff had a higher grade-point average.

Olecia James filed the federal lawsuit in the Northern District of Mississippi, claiming the decision by the recently desegregated school district cost her a college scholarship. 

James claims she was told that her weighted grade-point average would be docked “quality points” earned in courses she had taken at a historically-black school in the state’s Cleveland School District before a new, desegregated school was opened in 2017.

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The points were only deducted from students who had taken classes at the historically black school rather than the historically white one, according to James’ lawsuit. The suit further claims that after James pushed back, she was told her “quality point average” would be restored to 4.41, but a white male student with a 4.34 average was still named salutatorian.

“The defendants . . . 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,” the lawsuit claims.

James, 18, a student at Alcorn State University, told the Washington Post she had initially been admitted to the University of Mississippi but lost a scholarship because it was intended for salutatorians. The suit seeks monetary damages, a change in school policy and an official declaration that James is salutatorian.

The district did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.