Dalee Sullivan ranked third at Alpine High School but believes she could easily rank higher than one or both of the students ahead of her.
Dalee Sullivan ranked third at Alpine High School, the only public high school in the small West Texas town, from where she graduated just last week. But the 18-year-old is anything but pleased with her ranking and believes that the school has miscalculated her GPA. According to her, she could easily rank higher than one or both of the students ahead of her. The school seems to have recalculated her grades and came to the same conclusion repeatedly, that she ranked third. Unsatisfied with this, Sullivan is now taking her high school to court and contending her third-place rank, reported The New York Times.
Sullivan's case was presided by Judge Roy B. Ferguson who shot to fame in February this year after a lawyer in his virtual courtroom could not figure out how to turn off the cat filter on Zoom. Ferguson was patient with his lawyer as he tried to figure out the situation and extended the same courtesy to the teen who could not get any legal representation. No local lawyer took on her case and one law firm from Dallas decided to represent her for the expensive fee of $75,000 which she could not afford. So she decided to represent herself and even took on the task of drafting a request for an injunction by herself.
A recent graduate took her Texas school district to court on Friday in a fight over her GPA — and represented herself. “I have all the evidence,” she said. “I have all the facts. And no one knows it as well as I know it.” https://t.co/eSZbhJLEtb— The New York Times (@nytimes) May 29, 2021
Her parents disputed their daughter's ranking with the school as well and even helped her draft the legal notices. “We aren’t even close to being lawyers,” Sullivan said. She researched similar cases in the area and was inspired by the case in Pecos where two students claimed they had the top spot and filed a restraining order and injunction on naming a valedictorian, according to CBS 7. Based on the injunction files from this case, Sullivan filed her own. During the hearing, she told the judge that "no matter the outcome of the G.P.A. contest, and no matter how many times we had the school recalculate the G.P.A., the Alpine Independent School District was going to make certain I could never be valedictorian, even if I earned it.”
The school responded to Sullivan's allegations saying, "Although we respectfully disagree with the allegations in the lawsuit, we take student and parent concerns very seriously and will continue to address the student’s concerns." They also stated that the district was "not at liberty to discuss the individual student." The school district mentioned that they calculated Sullivan's grades repeatedly and that each time she still ranked third. Teresa Todd, a local government lawyer who is also a longtime friend of Sullivan’s mother helped the teen for the trial by offering advice.
Todd stated, "She worked really hard for this, and I think all kids deserve to know where they fall in the pecking order." She added, "Kids have to show their work. Why doesn’t the school have to show their work?” Sullivan said in the hearing, "I have all the evidence. I have all the facts. And no one knows it as well as I know it." Kelley L. Kalchthaler, the lawyer representing the school district, said, "We don’t think the court has jurisdiction over this case and all parties should be dismissed." She went on to argue that Sullivan had not exhausted the district’s grievance process. Judge Ferguson conceded and said that her claims needed to go through the school district’s grievance process.
The case is not closed yet and Sullivan was hoping for an independent audit of honor graduates’ grades. In Texas, high school students with the highest rank can receive free tuition for their first year at in-state public institutions. Sullivan plans to attend the College of Charleston in South Carolina and is believed to already have scholarships. She hopes to major in biophysics with the aim of going into medicine.