After two Black high school seniors in Mississippi were recently forced to share their valedictorian and salutatorian honors with two white students, it brought back sensitive memories of a 2016 graduate who went through the same thing.
Jasmine Shepard was a graduating senior at Cleveland High School in Mississippi in 2016. At the time, Shepard was set to be honored as the class valedictorian. But she was blindsided when she learned that certain standard operating procedures were violated so that a white student could share the valedictorian honors with her, EURWeb reports.
While speaking with the outlet, Shepard’s mother, Dr. Sherry Shepard explained how the white student, identified as “H.B.” was “allowed to receive credit for courses that were not in the approved courses manual in the Mississippi Department of Education.”
The mother and daughter were prompted to speak out after learning about recent graduating senior Layla Temple and Ikeria Washington. The two Black students went viral after word got out about how they were forced to share the valedictorian and salutatorian honors with two white students at West Point Consolidated School District.
While Washington and Temple had the two highest QPAs among the graduating class, the school decided to also honor two white students who had the highest GPAs. As a result, four students were recognized by the school as valedictorian and salutatorian, and the school was blasted on social media.
“A Mississippi HS had two black female students as their valedictorian and salutatorian,” a now-viral tweet read. “Then suddenly, hours before the graduation, they announced two additional students were ALSO the valedictorian and salutatorian for a total of four. The school has deleted their social media.”
A Mississippi HS had two black female students as their valedictorian and salutatorian.
Then suddenly, hours before the graduation, they announced two additional students were ALSO the valedictorian and salutatorian for a total of four. The school has deleted their social media pic.twitter.com/CkAKQ5nKjL
— chris evans (@chris_notcapn) June 1, 2021
The school responded to the backlash by accepting “full responsibility for this misunderstanding” and apologizing for “any confusion and problems this has caused,” WCBI News reports.
We’ve come a long way as a country, but situations like this remind us of how far we still have to go.