In scanning the daily news(?)paper in Tulsa on September 24, there was a headline several pages back that read: “Straight-A student sues school over scholarship.” The byline was attributed to Ben Felder of The Oklahoman. That is in keeping with the previously reported agreement between the papers to use each other’s staff reports. That agreement seems to me to be a logical cost-cutting decision. Too bad the elected and employed officials occupying state, county, city, and school officialdoms cannot get their minds into the same sort of attitude!! Of course, that headline hit me like a red flag would a mad bull, so it had to be read in full, for which I did.
The story states that the school district in question is the Pond Creek-Hunter District and involves the high school where the plaintiff at graduation was named as valedictorian, played on the girls basketball team and was a member of the National Honor Society. It further states that while a freshman, she was involved in an off campus shoplifting incident for which she apologized. Nothing further in the last three years ever surfaced to show any delinquent tendencies on her part. Also stated was that she is in a single-parent home and it was implied that there is not an abundance of finances for college tuition.
It seems that when she applied for an Oklahoma Promise Scholarship, a program for high academic students from low-income homes, the school rejected her application over that incident because the school “had labeled her a juvenile delinquent” at the previous incident and thus would deny her a scholarship. This despite her stellar final three years’ record, top academic rating and being allowed to play basketball (it seems as a star) on a winning team.
The implication to me also was that she had not been informed of that earlier determination by the school, nor did it state if the determination was by the school officials or the school board.
It does not state whether she had been notified of the delinquent label at the time it was placed in her records. If not, then the school administrators and school board members were themselves delinquent (and possibly in violation of law) and certainly in violation of common courtesy. It seems inappropriate that they would allow her to attain the pinnacle of academic awards with this blot on her record. Thus it would appear that there was either a breakdown in carrying out policy or the policy sorely needs amending. To keep such an item on one’s scholastic record secret from the individual seems to me to be verging on criminal. Also, the question arises as to why, with this on the record, she was allowed to participate in competitive sports, and upon completion of the academic program with a perfect record, to receive the honor of being selected to be the class valedictorian and admitted to the National Honor Society.
The story states that although the plaintiff had requested an open hearing on her appeal to the school board, the request was denied, thus resulting in the only alternative being the lawsuit. It was filed originally in the Grant County Court, but was transferred to the U.S. District Court as it claims a violation of her constitutional rights, which seems appropriate. It will indeed be interesting to see if the media continues to follow the case to the conclusion, or if it will hush it up – like the school administrators did the original adverse designation of juvenile delinquent.
The story also states that the school board president, district superintendent and board attorney had properly declined to reply to requests for comment. That is the normal action in such cases (which is usually not followed by lawyers in civil rights cases involving minorities).
It seems to me that there should be a rather noxious smell emanating from the school offices and the school board meetings over this matter. The girl has, according to the story, rather completely corrected any wrong doing done while in the ninth grade and should be rewarded as properly due for her exemplary record in the following three years. In other words, she is completely rehabilitated. Perhaps there is something else behind the adamant refusal on the part of the individuals ruling the school and the board.
This points up, to me, the importance that should be placed on school board elections so that well respected and honest individuals can be placed in those seats.