By Kevin Edwards
BC Staff Writer
The lawsuit between Jasmine Shepard and the Cleveland School District, over her position in the 2016 graduation lineup of Cleveland High School, was dismissed this week.
United States District Judge Debra Brown of the Northern District of Mississippi ordered the case dismissed with prejudice Monday.
The suit, filed June 2017, named Cleveland School District, then-Cleveland High School principal Steven Craddock and then-district superintendent Jacqueline Thigpen as defendants.
Shepard, who is black, alleged that a white student was given more points than Shepard in an online class, was given the opportunity to take that class when Shepard was not, and that the effects on each student’s grade point averages resulted in Shepard being denied the honor of sole valedictorian for the 2016 class.
She also claimed that due to the court ruling on desegregating the school district, officials failed “to follow the established policies and procedures for selecting a valedictorian,” and thus the school named co-vals one of whom was white and the other black.
Shepard claimed in the suit that co-valedictorians have never been selected at the school before and that all valedictorians in the school’s history had been white.
Shepard claimed she “suffered humiliation, loss of self-esteem, embarrassment, loss of opportunities, mental anguish, emotional distress, pain and suffering and other damages to be shown at the trial of this matter.”
Among other things, Shepard asked the court for a trial jury, monetary compensation and to be declared the sole valedictorian for 2016.
The original filing alleges these actions “violated plaintiff’s constitutionally-protected rights under the Fourteenth and Fifteen Amendments to the United States Constitution resulting in the denial of protected rights of an African American female student in deference to a white female student on account of race or color.”
Craddock and Thigpen alleged that they were not personally involved in these accusations.
Brown wrote Shepard failed to provide evidence of discriminatory intent or that a school district policy led to any alleged constitutional violations.
Additionally, the judgment asserts that Shepard had not shown negative implications of sharing valedictorian honors with respect to due process and failed to substantiate economic damages.
Summary judgment was granted for Craddock, Thigpen, and the District meaning the case is ruled on before trial.
In a statement sent to The Bolivar Commercial, board attorney Arnold Luciano said he was pleased with the result.
“The Cleveland School District has and will always continue to provide a quality education for all of its students and the Cleveland/Bolivar County community,” said Luciano.
Attempts to contact Jasmine and Sherry Shepard for comment were unsuccessful, as were attempts to contact their attorney.
In an unrelated lawsuit, Olecia James filed against the district at the end of April 2019, claiming that she was illegally denied the title of salutatorian when she graduated because the district did not want both the valedictorian and the salutatorian to be black.
James graduated in 2018.