DeSoto, TX — Destiny Brannon, a high school student from Texas who delivered a controversial valedictory speech during her graduation ceremony, has been stripped of her valedictorian status and will no longer receive the college scholarship that she was promised. The high school claims it is because of miscalculations of her ranking as a student, but Brannon’s family believes it is a punishment for her speech.
As the top student of DeSoto Independent School District class of 2018, Destiny already had plans for college. She was guaranteed to receive a one-year free tuition to a state university (as all valedictorians from Texas do) and she chose to study at the University of Texas at Austin.
But those plans came crumbling down when the school officials told her that she was not the highest ranking student. According to them, there were miscalculations and the school derived the rankings from just one semester instead of two. As a result of the final re-calculation, Brannon dropped from Top 1 to Top 3. The new valedictorian, Brian Uzuegbunam, moved from Top 4 to Top 1.
“It’s embarrassing, because I got so much publicity from them on being valedictorian, only to be told that’s a mistake,” Destiny said.
Regarding the issue, Desoto ISD said that it “regrets that it failed to ensure that systems were in place to prevent this from occurring, but has since worked diligently to ensure that those at fault have been held accountable and that there is a system and process in place to verify student academic ranking as based on grades, grade point average and course weighting.”
District Spokesperson Tiffanie Blackmon-James also added that the people responsible for the errors were already fired.
However, Destiny and her mother Samantha Jones-Brannon, a secretary in the counselor’s office at DeSoto High, believe that the revised rankings were a form of punishment for her critical speech.
Destiny’s speech, which was approved by then-principal Arista Owens-McGowan and the board members, criticized the school and said that they were prioritizing athletics more than academics. She added that the school has “subpar teachers who honestly weren’t there to benefit the needs of DeSoto students.”
Blackmon-Jones, on the other hand, claimed that the “recalibrated rankings are in no way a form of retribution or in response to Brannon’s address.”
Moreover, Destiny said that no one from the school apologized to her yet and she doesn’t expect to receive financial support anymore. She was left with over $10,000 bill to pay to the university. With the help of her other scholarships and a GoFundMe page, she hopes to still reach her dreams.