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Would-be salutatorian loses suit against school district

Posted On: Aug. 18, 2022 1:30 PM CST


In the words of the late Whitney Houston: It’s not right, but it’s okay.

A federal appeals court on Wednesday admitted that it isn’t fair that a “model student with reason to hope she would graduate second in her high school class” lost her slot when her schools merged and she got bumped to number three, but it’s not unconstitutional.

Olivia James sued the Cleveland School District in Cleveland, Mississippi, and several administrators after a 50-year-old desegregation consent decree resulted in a federal judge ordering the consolidation of the town’s two high schools.

This reshuffled class rankings, Ms. James alleged, and that it violated her right to due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi dismissed the suit, as did the appeals court in New Orleans, writing: “That James did not end up class salutatorian may seem unfair. It was surely disappointing. But it was not unconstitutional.”