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Texas Student Loses Valedictorian Title and $25K Scholarship After School Miscalculates Her Final Rankings

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Destiny Brannon planned on attending UT-Austin in the fall, but is now looking for ways to cover her tuition. (Image courtesy of Destiny Brannon)

A Texas student crowned valedictorian of her high school is crying foul after being bumped from the top spot after school officials somehow miscalculated her academic standing.

Destiny Brannon received the crushing news on June 21, just two weeks after delivering her valedictorian speech at graduation from DeSoto High School, according to The Dallas Morning News. Brannon, who was headed to college on a one–year scholarship, had just attended freshman orientation for her university when DeSoto ISD officials broke the news that she actually ranked third in her class, not first.

It turns out the high school calculated the final rankings based on grades from the fall semester, rather than the spring semester. Administrators said they realized the errors when the school ran its final transcripts.

The mistake ultimately cost Brannon her title, as well as a $25,000 scholarship Texas awards solely to valedictorians. Schoolmate Brian Uzuegbunam was named valedictorian after he was mistakenly ranked as fourth overall.

“It’s embarrassing, because I got so much publicity from them on being valedictorian, only to be told that’s a mistake,” Brannon told the newspaper.

Now, the college-bound grad said her family is scrambling to find a way to pay for her  $25,134 yearly tuition. She planned on attending UT-Austin in the fall, taking 16 credit hours, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Brannon and her mother, who works as a secretary in the counselor’s office at DeSoto High, have had a hard time believing this was just a “mistake,” however, and feel there might be ulterior motives at play. The mother–daughter duo said they believe the revised rankings are in retaliation to Brannon’s graduation speech criticizing the school’s “subpar teachers” and the district’s prioritization of athletics over academics.

“This school year has been a troubling one for me and the DeSoto ISD school system,” the teen said in her speech. “We were challenged with subpar teachers who honestly weren’t there to benefit the needs of the DeSoto students.”

” … Unfortunately DeSoto ISD is plagued with the idea that sports are somehow more important than education,” she continued. “I’m not quite sure how this ideology came about but I do hope for a change.”

DeSoto ISD has since apologized for the mix-up and insisted the miscalculation had nothing to do with the speech.

“The district was aware of Brannon’s perspective prior to her speech,” district spokeswoman Tiffanie Blackmon-Jones said in a statement to Yahoo Lifestyle. ” … The recalibrated rankings are in no way a form of retribution or in response to Brannon’s address.

Contrary to the family’s claims, the spokeswoman noted that neither Brannon nor Uzuegbunam’s college acceptance or coverage of their tuition have been impacted. The district said it’s now “working with them to ensure the two students will still be able to pursue their intended pathways and that we, as a district, are working diligently to address deficiencies such as this and others that are detracting from our ability to offer quality educational experiences.”

Brannon’s family has since launched a GoFundMe page to help cover her college costs. So far, the page has collected nearly 11,000 in donations.

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