East Clarendon graduate sues District 3 board, superintendent, principal

Clarendon School District 3's school board, superintendent and high school principal and guidance counselor have found themselves in the midst of a legal action pertaining to an issue with the graduating Class of 2016. The family of co-valedictorian Flury Wilson, who graduated June 3, 2016, has filed suit against the board, Superintendent Connie Dennis and East Clarendon High School Principal Jason Cook and Guidance Counselor Sharon DuRant, accusing the defendants of wrongfully labeling Wilson as the co-valedictorian of her graduating class and marking her placement as No. 2 in the class on her permanent records. Paperwork filed June 5 in Clarendon County Common Pleas Court alleges that Wilson held the No. 1 ranking in her class prior to May 26, 2017, "based on her academic performance and accomplishment of earning the top grades for the respective school year and grading periods." However, Wilson was informed May 27, 2016, that her class ranking had changed form No. 1 to No. 2, without any proper justification given, her suit alleges. Wilson, who was preparing to serve as class valedictorian that very day for Class Day and during graduation ceremonies June 3, 2016, was ultimately listed as co-valedictorian in both programs. "The plaintiff received notice May 27, 2016, that she was ranked No. 2 and she and another student would serve as joint valedictorians at the Commencement Ceremony," reads the paperwork filed against the defendants. Wilson's suit alleges that "the defendants allowed the improper grade submissions of a known student, specifically the student now holding the No. 1 ranking, which altered the ranking of the plaintiff all in a grossly negligent manner and intentionally and conscious failure to safe guard the academic achievement and class ranking of the plaintiff." Wilson's suit further alleges that "grossly negligent record keeping" on the part of the high school led to the errors. "Even after the 2015-16 school year ended, the plaintiffs sought proper resolution from the defendants as to the plaintiff's class ranking and sought to restore her to the correct and proper position she has earned based on her academic record," reads the complaint against the district. "As a result, the plaintiffs have been damaged due to the grossly negligent actions of the defendants, and due to the intentional and conscious failure to investigate the plaintiff's class ranking and the acceptance of the submission of grades by another student after the deadline to submit grades for the purpose of GPA calculations and due to the defendants failure to return her to the No. 1 position she rightfully earned over the course of her grading periods in her high school academic career." The student who held the co-valedictorian ranking with Wilson is not named in the suit, which directly names school board members Jason Newsome, Ellis Evans, John Hardy, George Frierson, Ron Wingard, Dale McKenzie and Norma Reardon. The paperwork accuses the board members, Dennis, DuRant and Cook in separate paragraphs with "acting in a manner to change, alter or improperly record student grades that resulted in the wrongful class ranking of the plaintiff, and that such action was grossly negligent and was an intentional and conscious failure to properly maintain the grades and class ranking of the plaintiff." Andrea White, the attorney retained to represent the defendants in this case, said last week that "this is an unfortunate situation, but the district believes it acted properly." "We will be answering it within the time allotted by the law, which is 30 days from the time of service," said White, a partner with White and Story Law Firm out of Columbia. "The district believes it handled the situation involving the determination of the valedictorian for the 2015-16 school year properly and that no district policy or state law or Department of Education regulations were violated." White said Thursday that she knew a summons and complaint had been served on the district office itself, which is effective legal service on the school board, but that she did not know yet whether Cook, Dennis and DuRant had been personally served.