The West Point Consolidated School District School Board reviewed and verified that the procedure used to select two white students as valedictorian and salutatorian is the same it used each year in the prior six years, according to a statement released Tuesday by the district.
The district also said it stands by its decision to award the honors to all four students.
Lisa Ross, the attorney for the two Black students originally named as the sole valedictorian and salutatorian, said since the district has still not produced the documentation and data showing how the rank was determined, the next step is litigation.
“We’ll see if they stick to their story under oath,” Ross said. “Show us the data. We want the truth no matter how it turns out.”
The district’s statement was not released to Ross’ clients Angela Washington and Lakira Temple, even though Ross said the board told them they would notify them of any decisions that were made following the meeting. The parents of the white co-valedictorian and co-salutatorian said they also did not receive it.
“The School Board, Superintendent and School Administration sincerely regret that this mistake happened and will commit to happen that it does not happen in the future,” the district’s statement read. “We stand by the resolution we chose as we believe it is the right and fair decision in light of the circumstances.”
The five-member school board is made up of three African-American members and two white members.
The statement came after Washington and Temple, the mothers of the two Black students who were originally selected as valedictorian and salutatorian of West Point High School, addressed the board on Monday. According to Ross, the mothers wanted the district to justify and document how and why the school district made the decision to also bestow the honors on two white students.
The board, citing student privacy concerns, discussed the issue in closed session, so it is unknown what was said in the meeting. Ross questioned why the meeting wasn’t open to the public and called for more transparency from the school district.
“I believe everybody deserves to know the truth,” she said.
She also questioned why multiple police officers — including one she said is the assistant police chief for the city — were present at the meeting.
The district’s statement reiterates that an incorrect calculation method was first used to select Ikeria Washington and Layla Temple as valedictorian and salutatorian. Once the error was discovered, a recalculation was done, and two white students were ranked first and second in the class.
“There are two methods to determine class rank. One method is the 0-100 scale and the other is the 1.0 to 4.0 scale. The process that West Point Consolidated School District uses for determining class rank is in the High School Student Handbook,” the statement read.
“The handbook states that class rank will be determined by semester averages which is the procedure followed for many years,” the statement continued. “The School Board has reviewed and verified that for the last six years class rank has been based on the 100 scale average. However, this year when the first Valedictorian and Salutatorian were announced, the selection was not based on the 100 scale, but instead it was based on the 4.0 scale.”
McDonald has previously said the district refers to the 0-100 scale as “GPA.”
When it was discovered the wrong procedure was used, the statement said, the superintendent awarded the honors to all four students.
Washington and Temple, along with Ross, point to another page in the school handbook that says that GPA is “calculated by averaging the grade point weights assigned to semester averages. Some classes may be weighted double see counselors for this information (sic).”
McDonald has acknowledged the school’s policy is unclear and needs to be better defined. He apologized for the error at the graduation ceremony.
The issue has garnered national attention in recent days, and co-salutatorian Layla Temple told MSNBC she questions whether she still holds the honor as her transcript indicates she ranks third.