Valedictorian bumped down to salutatorian due to COVID….

Lots of people will have lots of stories to tell about how the Great Pandemic affected them.  One student in Rocksprings ISD believes that COVID deprived him of valedictorian honors.  Going into his final semester of high school the student ranked second in the class. But he had a plan. He was signed up for dual credit classes in math and economics, and figured that good grades in those classes would boost him up to the number one slot.

But the school board decided that the pandemic required some temporary changes in grading practices and class rank. It passed a resolution that called for pass/fail grading on classes affected by the pandemic.  It also decided to calculate class rank as of the end of the fall semester 2019. That left our student (soon to be known as “the Petitioner”) in second place.

Valedictorian status is not only an honor, it also opens the door to a tuition waiver for college.  Texas Education Code 54.301 authorizes colleges and universities in Texas to grant such a waiver to the highest ranking graduate of each high school.  Finishing second, rather than first, this student ended up taking out loans to pay for college. He and his parents filed a complaint with the school board (denied) and then took it to T.E.A.

The Commissioner dismissed the complaint. The student cited several sections of the Education Code that he believed the school board violated. Some of those (11.1512 and 4.001) were deemed to be “aspirational” only, and thus not a proper basis for a complaint to the Commissioner.

Other claims lacked any support in the record.  The student alleged that the school board made its decision in order to favor student athletes, but there was nothing beyond speculation to support that claim. Then there was the fact that the valedictorian was the niece of one of the board members. What about that?  The Commissioner noted the lack of evidence that the one board member influenced the decisions of the others. Moreover, the parents did not make this objection at the board meeting when they had the opportunity to do so.  So the complaint was dismissed, but there is one more aspect of this decision that is worth comment.  Tomorrow we will tell you how the Commissioner handled the allegations that the board violated the Texas Open Meetings Act.

It's Student v. Rocksprings ISD, Docket No. 008-R10-10-2020, decided by Commissioner Morath on March 16, 2021.


Got a question or comment for the Dawg?  Let me hear from you at

Tomorrow: about TOMA.