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Parents consider lawsuit after daughter loses valedictorian spot

June 22, 2012 |  6:00 am

An Eagle Rock couple is considering filing a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Unified School District after their daughter, who earned straight A's and had a 4.50 GPA, was denied the honor of valedictorian and had to settle for salutatorian, her family says.

Elisha Marquez has been accepted to Ivy League schools and is on her way to Stanford in the fall. The 18-year-old has already nabbed an engineering internship at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and earned a scholarship through the Gates Millennium Scholars program.

But according to Eagle Rock Patch, she had only a 4.50 weighted GPA after the first semester of her senior year, one notch below Eagle Rock High’s Jasmine Fernandez, who managed a 4.55.

Consequently, Fernandez stood as the 3,000-student school’s valedictorian Wednesday, and Marquez had to settle for salutatorian, according to Elisha’s father, Nelson.

And to Elisha’s mother, Carol, the second-place finish means that her daughter's "sleepless nights" were essentially “for nothing.”

"It's flawed. It's wrong," Carol told The Times. "All her hard work is not being recognized. All she had was straight A's. Not a B, ever."

Nelson said his family is considering suing LAUSD for failing to award their daughter the honor of valedictorian. Carol was less keen on the idea after she said her daughter delivered a salutatorian speech that drew lots of praise from peers.

Regardless, the family has already written a letter to the California Department of Education and spoken with district officials about what they perceive to be an “injustice.” The parents allege that because Elisha was not in the school's magnet program, she could not take AP classes as a freshman.

They also take umbrage with district policy that does not consider students' final semester grades in the valedictorian GPA calculation.

“They’re robbing the students of the credit,” Nelson said. “If you know in your heart you did your best, what else can you do? It’s based on the system that you’re ranked lower, not based on achievement.”

District officials did not immediately respond to an inquiry from The Times, but a spokesman for the district told Patch it has been LAUSD’s policy since 2004 to have a cutoff date for all valedictorian GPA calculations.

Eagle Rock High Principal Salvador Velasco also told the news site that Elisha could have taken more AP classes in 10th and 11th grade to make up for any missed opportunities as a freshman.    

Nelson concedes that graduation has passed and the situation “is what it is.” But he dismissed the notion that other parents might find their family’s complaint excessive.  

“They’re not in the situation,” he said. “You don’t want your kid to be a loser. That’s what they’re basically saying. Be a loser.

“It’s not my mistake,” he added. "It’s [the district’s] mistake. At the end of the day the grades speak for themselves.”  

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-- Matt Stevens
Twitter.com/mattstevenslat

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