Kymberly Wimberly, a high school student from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, managed straight A’s with one lonely B in her four year tenure at McGehee Secondary School.
Not only was she was in the top percentile of her class, Kymberly was the top performer in her class with the highest GPA, an accolade that usually affords one the prestigious opportunity of being their school’s valedictorian. Unfortunately for Kymberly, her academic prowess was not enough as she has seemingly fallen victim to another example archaic race politics. The school refused to name her the sole valedictorian of her class, instead choosing to appoint her co-valedictorian alongside a white student with a lower GPA. Her mother overheard this discussion in the copy room:
Wimberly’s mother is the school’s “certified media specialist.” She says in the federal discrimination complaint that after her daughter had been told she would be valedictorian, the mother heard “in the copy room that same day, other school personnel expressed concern that Wimberly’s status as valedictorian might cause a ‘big mess.’”
When Kymberly’s mother tried to bring her concerns to the school board, she was met with puzzlingly inept bureaucracy:
Bratton says she tried to protest the decision to the school board, but defendant Superintendent Thomas Gathen would not let her speak, because she allegedly had “filled out the wrong form. Instead of ‘public comments,’ Gather [sic] said Bratton should have asked for ‘public participation.’” The superintendent told her she could not appeal his decision until the June 28 school board meeting; graduation was May 13.
Well the big mess has exploded for the predominantly white middle school and it’s 46 percent African-American population as Kymberly and her mother are seeking punitive damage for constitutional violations and an injunction stating that she is the sole valedictorian of her class.
On the surface, this is a sad example and a depressing reminder on just how far we haven’t progressed. As this story develops we will get a broader understanding of not only this high school, but also a community in which it would be a big mess to have a black valedictorian. A system that appears to shirk the fact that America was able to collectively elect it’s first African-American president. For every story like this that sees the light of day, it makes one wonder at how many similar cases in rural communities not unlike this one that simply go unreported.
At the end of the day, this young lady will get past this as she has done nothing more than succeed, while all those involved from the school board to the principal have some serious questions to answer.