Jasmine Shepard, who graduated from high school in 2016 and had to share the honor of valedictorian with another student, filed a lawsuit against the Cleveland school district in 2017. She accused them of discriminating against her for forcing her to share the title with another student. Shepard is taking her lawsuit to trial.
According to the lawsuit, Shepard was the first black student to be selected as valedictorian at the historically white Cleveland High School in 2016. She was upset when she found out she would be sharing the spot with Heather Bouse. Shepard believes Bouse’s grade score was higher than it should have been. She alleges Bouse incorrectly received more than four points for classes that didn’t qualify as advanced or accelerated courses.
The lawsuit additionally alleges that Bouse was given the chance to take physics online while Shepard was never told about that possibility. She says her GPA was lowered because she took rigorous classes instead of the less challenging online courses.
Shepard claims that a federal judge’s order to desegregate the Cleveland school district affected the district’s choice of valedictorians.
“…They were mostly concerned with white flight and not that of the black students or the black community. So, I believe that that influenced his decision to name Heather Bouse co-valedictorian with me to insure that there was less white flight,” Shepard said.
The school district says that Shepard’s claims are untrue and that the two valedictorians’ grades were the same.
“I said, ‘It looks like we’ve got two valedictorians,’” Superintendent Jacquelyn Thigpen said during her deposition, according to court documents. “I didn’t know — I don’t know Heather Bouse, didn’t know then whether Heather Bouse was black, white or what. We had two names at the top. That’s what I looked at and said, ‘Looks like we’ve got two valedictorians.’”
The lawsuit asks for monetary damages and for the district to follow its policies for choosing valedictorian and name Shepard as the sole valedictorian for Cleveland High School’s 2016 graduating class.