Mother of African-American Student Who Was Forced to Share Valedictorian Title Chooses to Fight Back

The mother of a recent high school graduate is filing a lawsuit against a Mississippi school district after her African-American daughter was forced to share her title as valedictorian with a white student who she claims had a lower grade point average.

The suit, which was filed Tuesday, says that Jasmine Shepard and her mother were informed the day before graduation that she would be named “co-valedictorian” along with her classmate.

According to Jasmine’s mother, Sherry, Jasmine was also forced to walk behind and give her speech after the white valedictorian. While she claims to not be angry with the other student named the valedictorian, calling her ‘the kindest-hearted, sweetest person,” Shepard does feel that Cleveland high school racially discriminated against her daughter.

Jasmine was the school’s first Black valedictorian according to her mother’s suit, and this is not the first time the school’s district has had problems involving racial tension. Last year, a federal judge found that the district had failed to desegregate its schools despite being mandated to do so over 50 years ago.

Sherry Shepard said, “A child, when they earn honors, they are entitled to receive them.” Her lawsuit calls for Jasmine to be named “sole-valedictorian” and monetary compensation. While an attorney for the school district called the lawsuit “frivolous”, the Shepards’ case has gained much attention on social media sites such as Twitter and the outcome already seems to be highly anticipated.

Chantè Russell

Chanté Russell is a Howard University print journalism major from Raleigh, North Carolina. Her entire life has been shaped by her passion for writing, fashion and activism. Those passions have led her to create a blog entitled Be The Zeitgeist and serve as a staff writer for Howard’s student newspaper, The Hilltop. She has also written for Lady With Attitude and worked as a freelance journalist. Some of her biggest role models include Anna Wintour, Maya Angelou and her cousin, Dr. Jennifer Edwards, who inspired Chanté to attend Howard. After completing college, Chanté hopes to work as a fashion journalist and use her platform to combat cultural insensitivity within the fashion industry and improve the public perception of the industry.

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