A high school in Mississippi is facing accusations of racism for naming two white students co-valedictorian and co-salutatorian after the school had already announced a valedictorian and salutatorian, both of whom are Black.
After West Point High School students Ikeria Washington and Layla Temple were named valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, the white parents of two students met with the superintendent of West Point’s school district and raised complaints that the school had not properly calculated criteria to determine the two designations, according to a New York Times report.
After consulting the school’s student handbook, West Point’s school district’s superintendent named the two white students as co-valedictorian and co-salutatorian several days later.
Burnell McDonald, the superintendent, told Mississippi Today that race did not play a role in the decision to name a second valedictorian and salutatorian, but instead attributed it to the high school guidance counselor not being given accurate information on how to calculate the designations.
However, in interviews with the New York Times, the families of Ikeria Washington and Layla Temple, expressed frustration and confusion with the outcome. The New York Times also reported that the families are considering suing.
A spokesperson for West Point’s school district was not immediately available for comment.
According to the Times, the initial grade calculation was based on quality point average, which gives extra weight to grades from advanced placement courses. The second calculation was based on unweighted grade point average.
In the increasingly competitive nature of high schools, grades and class designations are only becoming more scrutinized by potential colleges and universities.
West Point is not the first school to raise questions around valedictorian designations this year. In May, a high school student in Alpine, Texas, argued that the school did not rank her grades correctly, claiming she did not rank third.