More than 130,000 People Demand Justice for Black Student Denied Valedictorian Honor
Civil Rights Group Asks Arkansas School District for Explanation of Steps it will Take to Support Black Student Achievement
August 8, 2011
The civil rights group ColorOfChange.org and Change.org, an online platform for social change, will today deliver more than 130,000 petition signatures to leaders of an Arkansas school district. Members of the organizations are demanding justice for a deserving black student who was denied her rightful status as valedictorian and forced to share the honor with a lower-achieving white student. The case of 18-year-old student Kymberly Wimberly has gained national attention as district officials have come under fire.
Kymberly, who graduated this spring and is the mother of an infant, earned the highest GPA in her class. Siding with school staffers who feared that honoring her would cause a “big mess,” Principal Darrell Thompson named a white student with a lower GPA co-valedictorian.
“What’s important is that McGehee school officials know that more than 130,000 people from across the country support Kymberly and are demanding justice for her,” said Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of ColorofChange.org. “What's unfolding in McGehee is an outrage, and it sends the wrong message to black students everywhere. The implication is clear: "No matter how hard you work, we won't give you full credit for your achievements.
ColorOfChange launched its online petition: http://act.colorofchange.org/sign/valedictorian as soon as the case became public. Similarly, Bee Lavender, a Change.org member and a former teen mom who is now an author and publisher started her own petition calling for justice.
"It is categorically unfair to punish a smart young mother who worked hard to be the best in her class and it is illegal to discriminate against students based on their race, gender, or disability status,” said Lavender. “The petition I started makes a simple, fundamental request: give the valedictorian title to the student with the highest GPA."
The ColorOfChange.org petition, signed by more than 80,000 people, goes a step further and asks for an explanation of steps the district will take to support black student achievement. According to the equal protection lawsuit Kymberly’s family has filed, administrators and teachers routinely discouraged black students, who made up nearly half of the high school’s enrollment this year, from taking honors and AP classes. They would use school-wide assemblies to make the course work sound daunting, then pull individual white students aside to encourage them to sign up for the more rigorous classes. As a result, Kymberly was the only black student in her AP literature class and one of two in her calculus class.
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With more than 750,000 members, ColorOfChange.org is the nation’s largest African-American online political organization.
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