An eleventh-hour decision by a high school in Mississippi to add two White students as valedictorian and salutatorian after exclusively conferring those honors on two Black female students was severely criticized by a section of people.
According to reports, the decision by the West Point High School to add two White students on the morning of the May 27 graduation was labeled as racist. BNC reports that two Black female students by the name Ikeria Washington and Layla Temple were initially named as valedictorian and salutatorian respectively by the West Point Consolidated School District (WPCSD).
Hours before graduation, however, the school released a statement saying its handbook stipulates students who pass with the highest Quality Point Average (QPA) and Grade Point Average (GPA) should be honored. To that effect, the school said Washington and Temple had passed with the highest QPAs while the White students recorded the highest GPAs. And as such, the two White students were also valedictorian and salutatorian.
The announcement did not go down well with a section of people, with a former student criticizing the school’s decision in a post on Twitter. “So my high school had a black valedictorian and Salutatorian AND THEY WERE FEMALES !! and now since a white person was mad about it,” she tweeted. “They decide to call the girls back and let them know that it will now be two valedictorians and salutatorians. This is wrong!”
Speaking with WTVA, Washington’s mother also said she was “angry” and “hurt” over what had transpired. “I am still confused,” Washington added. “It’s nothing that they are telling me that’s making sense.”
Following the backlash, the school released a statement in an attempt to clarify its controversial decision. The school officials had moved to honor the two White students after a White parent asked if the selection procedure was based on the school’s handbook guidelines, Mississippi Today reported.
“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 school said in a statement to WCBI News. “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.”
The statement added: “We apologize for any confusion and problems this has caused. The school district takes full responsibility for this misunderstanding.”