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Federal Court Dismisses Mississippi Student Racial Bias Lawsuit

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The Associated Press

Associated Press

Michael Goldberg

Jackson, Mississippi (AP) — School district in small town Delta, Mississippi, claims to discriminate against black student and strip her of her education litigation. The academic award was dismissed by a panel of federal judges.

According to Clarion Ledger, Olecia James filed a federal lawsuit against the Cleveland School District in 2019, in which officials ruled that she was a "white He claimed that it prevented him from being a class salute because he was afraid of flying.

Prior to James' senior year, her historically black high school merged with a historically white school to comply with the long-standing federal desegregation order. Merging the two high schools rearranged the class rankings, leaving James in No. 3. According to the lawsuit, the Salutatorian was an honor given to her second-best-performing alumnus, initially scoring given to a white student who appeared to be lower than her. The valedictorian was black.

In its opinion released Wednesday, a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the district court's decision to dismiss James' claim.

Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan wrote that none of the merged high schools had followed the district's handbook in awarding course credit and quality marks for the past three years. I'm here.

"It may seem unfair that James was not the class salute. It was certainly a shame. But it was not unconstitutional," Duncan wrote. .

James' attorney, Lisa Ross, said the decision was disappointing. is not what we expected at all," Ross said Thursday.

Two weeks before her graduation, James learned that school officials had lowered her ranking by reducing the points she earned from courses she had taken while attending East Side High School. , said the lawsuit.

James denies her due process under the Fourteenth Amendment because the school district did not follow the handbook in determining rankings. sued the person.

Duncan wrote that a federal district court "correctly dismissed her claim" when it did not find it unconstitutional, and that James was stripped of due process or that the school district discriminated against her.

The superintendent and attorney for the Cleveland School District did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Prior to James' lawsuit, the school district was the subject of a similar lawsuit filed by Jasmine Shepherd in 2016 during her 110-year history of historically white Cleveland High School. became the first black valedictorian. She said the school shared honors with white students who were allowed to take extra classes.Ross represented Shepard in the case, which was also dismissed in federal court.

According to Ross, James graduated from Alcorn State University this spring and is now a second lieutenant in the US Army. She plans to attend law school.


Michael Goldberg is a member of the Associated Press/Reports for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover hidden issues. Follow him on his Twitter at