A Mississippi community is rallying around two Black teens awarded top honors at their local high school after school district administrators added additional metrics, allowing for two white students to share the titles of valedictorian and salutatorian.
Administration officials at West Point Consolidated School District located in West Point, are currently being dragged over allegations of racism and white privilege after the news was made public this week. According to Mississippi Today, West Point High School students Ikeria Washington and Layla Temple, were named district valedictorian and salutatorian days before their class graduation at an awards ceremony.
But shortly after being praised for their hard work and academic achievements, the school decided to change its ranking metrics on the morning of the graduation. Now students would be selected based on their Quality Point Average (QPA), which allowed Washington and Temple the top honors, and Grade Point Average (GPA), resulting in the selection of the white students, Dominic Borgioli and Emma Berry, who reportedly had the highest GPAs.
Community members were rightfully outraged, prompting the school district to release a statement to WCBI News in an attempt to explain the selection process.
“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.”
Administrators claim that school counselors made a mistake, which diverted from protocol and instead of stripping students of their awards, instead decided to honor all four students.
However, Washington and Temple’s family aren’t having it. Especially since both Washington and Temple claim they found out about the incident on social media.
Family members took to social media and vented their frustrations, prior to the school deactivating their social media pages.
In her Facebook post, Angela Washington, Ikeria’s mother, claimed Superintendent Burnell McDonald was forced to change the rules due to parent intimidation. Dominic and Emma’s parents claim that accusation is false.
Washington told Mississippi Today that her daughter has suffered humiliation and emotional distress over the incident.
Lakira Temple, Layla’s mother, claims she also suffered humiliation.
“The superintendent made her feel as if she wasn’t as smart as the other kids, and that she shouldn’t believe that she’s on their level,” she said.
Both families plan on meeting with the school board later this month.