The McGehee School District on Thursday filed a response in U.S. District Court to a federal lawsuit by a black student who claimed that she had to share the valedictorian title with a white student who had a lower grade point average. The district denies the student’s claim of racial discrimination.

The following statement was provided to Seark Today by the McGehee School District’s Little Rock attorney, Sharon Carden Streett:

“A complaint filed against the McGehee School District, its board, superintendent and principal was delivered to these defendants on July 29, 2011. The Complaint alleged that two valedictorians were chosen rather than one based on one student’s race. An Answer for all defendants was filed on August 18, 2011 within the time allowed.

In May of 2011 the senior class of McGehee High School graduated. The District recognized two valedictorians. The selection of valedictorians was in no way based on any student’s race and no student was treated differently because of race. In determining class ranking a student earns three (3) points for each “B”, four (4) points for each “A.” Advanced Placement (AP) courses are weighted so that an “A” in an AP course is five (5) points and a “B” is four (4) points.

If a student takes AP courses and earns “A’s” that student’s GPA will be ultimately be reduced if he also takes a greater than required number of regular courses and other students do not, even though he earns “A’s.” It is simply the effect of the weighted AP courses on the overall computation. Several years ago the McGehee School Board adopted a policy that prohibits the District from penalizing a student in the class ranking calculation for taking extra courses. This policy was intended to encourage students to take more courses without being afraid of diluting their GPA.

For example if two students each had all A’s, each took the same number of AP courses in which they earned A’s, but one took an extra regular course in which he earned an A, there would be a minute difference in GPA’s because of the extra course even though the student earned an A in the extra course. Excluding the extra course, which the district’s policy requires, would give the students identical GPA’s and no student would be penalized for taking extra courses.

The district’s policy is in no way based on race and has in no way been applied in a racially discriminatory manner. The policy is intended to encourage students to take as many courses as they can, to obtain as much education as they can. The McGehee School District its board and administration were and are extremely proud of both of the outstanding students named valedictorians in 2011.”