BOE votes for one Malverne valedictorian after mix-up

June 17, 2011 4:58:17 AM PDT
After a human error caused a valedictorian mix-up at a Long Island high school, only one student will be first in the class. Initially, school officials suggesed two students share the title.

The Malverne Board of Education decided Thursday night that this year's Malverne High School graduating class would have only one valedictorian, Aalique Grahame.

"A mistake was made, it was human error, we feel we have to correct it and move on," Malverne School District Superintendent Dr. James Hunderfund said.

That was easier said than done.

It's a mistake that had Grahame considering legal action while Sarah St. John sorted through hateful messages she was getting on Facebook.

Both seniors were in the middle of what became a vicious valedictorian mess.

In October, Sarah found out she was at the top of her class.

"I was surprised but proud of myself and happy," St. John said.

But months later, school officials realized there had been a mistake.

The students' grades from the first semester of their senior year had not been included in the equation, only those through the end of their junior year.

After re-crunching the numbers, Sarah had a GPA of 95.16, and Aalique's was just slightly higher at 95.43.

"It was an error by adults, these teenagers were innocent and I wanted to protect them, both of them," principal James Brown said.

So the principal suggested both students share the title of valedictorian.

Xavier Bernard was then named salutatorian, but that didn't sit well with Aalique.

"The numbers are the numbers, you should go by the numbers, it shouldn't be about sympathy or compassion, it should be the way it is," he said.

But at first, Sarah was okay with taking second place. That meant Xavier would have been out of the mix, and due to the backlash from other students, St. John wanted to bow out of the entire process.

"The sad thing and the very good part about this, is I found out who my real friends are, who will support me in the end, and that my parents would do anything to help me out," St. John said.

Aalique hired an attorney and had the backing of the Lakeview NAACP, all demanding he alone hold the title of valedictorian. The board of education agreed.

Graduation is scheduled for June 24th.