It's mine!! All mine!!
May 9, 2003 10:32 AM   Subscribe

Blair Hornstine has won an injunction against her school naming a co-valedictorian. Now the suit (discussed earlier in this thread) will proceed to a trial to decide damages. The judge bought the argument of Hornstine's very expensive lawyer that the school is discriminating against her because of her vague, Chronic-Fatigue-like illness. The judge may have sided with Ms. Hornstine, but her classmates and the public at large are not. One anonymous poster who claims to be a classmate says "I can assure you from years of experience that the only condition Blair suffers from is chronic inflammation of the ego. " A Philly Columnist feels sorry for her. Personally, I think the judge is off her nut, as it seems pretty apparent that Ms. Hornstine isn't a bit disabled.
posted by CoFenchurch (73 comments total)
Personally, I find this hilarious. This girl is real-life version of the Reese Witherspoon character in Election.
posted by psmealey at 10:48 AM on May 9, 2003

Oops... posted too early, but should clarify, that I of course don't find her medical condition hilarious at all. Lest anyone start throwing rocks at me.
posted by psmealey at 10:51 AM on May 9, 2003

I'm skeptical of this girl I must admit, but as psmeasley points out "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" ain't funny.

(No, I don't have it. Yes, I'm close to someone who does. Yes, it's kind of a personal hobbyhorse of mine. Shutting up now.)
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:58 AM on May 9, 2003

"Cry cry cry! Daddy, I wanna be the best!"

By ruling for her, the court is discriminating against those who had comparative disadvantages in the accumulation of grades (they weren't given the option to drop unweighted classes, ie gym, in favor of weighted classes).

I had stronger words for her, but I restrain myself.
posted by The Michael The at 11:02 AM on May 9, 2003

Has it said in any of the news stories what exactly Ms. Hornstine's disability is?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:05 AM on May 9, 2003

Hornstine had the top rating, with a grade point average of 4.6894.

This # doesn't jive. Thought she had all A's. 4.6 or 4.7 I can see but 4.6894 she must of had a B in a class somewhere worth 1 credit. Know it based on GPA. But hey if she wants to live in a perfect world then...
posted by thomcatspike at 11:05 AM on May 9, 2003

daddy's litigious little bitch will go far. mark my words.
posted by quonsar at 11:05 AM on May 9, 2003

psmealey -- right on with the Tracy Flick comparison! hmmm, what kind of sordid underbelly can Alexander Payne find at Moorestown High? ;-P in reality, unfortunately, the judge has to take this case a little more seriously than perhaps she normally would because of the disability issue, specious as it might be...and to be fair, while it's happened before that pushy parents get their precocious kids classified as "disabled" (i.e. too talented to go to regular school) to get free tutoring from the local school district (can't find a link, but trust me, i used to work in the legal office of the state dept. of ed.), it is also possible to have an unusual medical condition that warrants special treatment. in the end, fancy lawyer + disabled plaintiff + judge dad = injunction, which ain't the same as winning at trial, although that might just be moot -- i mean, if they've already forced the school to give her the podium at graduation, what's the point of continuing the suit? i bet they drop it on June 20th...real nice. i hope the whole class gives her the collective cold shoulder...what the hell is she going to speak on, anyway? the importance of working hard and respecting your peers? *snort*
posted by serafinapekkala at 11:10 AM on May 9, 2003

"Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" ain't funny.

Didn't the Doctors recently publish a report on sleep and stated that most teens need more than 8 hours a day?

Think it's just being a teen.

Also she has ties to this legal system, I expected the courts to go forth with this, why wouldn't' they in the kind of climate you see today?
posted by thomcatspike at 11:11 AM on May 9, 2003

She'll have to go far... to escape her reputation. Rest assured she'll have made no fans of the students at the colleges she's been accepted to - all of which are schools for egotistic prigs.

The next lawsuit up - getting those bitch Kappas for not choosing her for the sorority. DESCRIMINATION!!!
posted by Perigee at 11:11 AM on May 9, 2003


Hornstine takes classes at home because she has been diagnosed as having chronic fatigue syndrome.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:11 AM on May 9, 2003

Hornstine had the top rating, with a grade point average of 4.6894.

i thought that GPA only went up to 4.0. at least it has been at every school i have attended.
posted by chrisroberts at 11:13 AM on May 9, 2003

chronic fatigue syndrome may well directly affect people, but if gym class is included in the gpa of other students, then I'm not exactly sure why what would traditionally have been called a "sickly" child should be exempted from the impact that grade might have - I mean, kids with low IQs don't get exempted from the grades in required courses that screw up their average... If they want to make valedictorian only about the mental average, they shouldn't count gym class for anyone; if it's an overall average, the less physically robust should lose some pointage the same way the less mentally robust lose some pointage. Of course it's discrimination: all hierarchical arranging is.
posted by mdn at 11:14 AM on May 9, 2003

PST: Thanks

kids with low IQs don't get exempted from the grades in required courses that screw up their average... If they want to make valedictorian only about the mental average, they shouldn't count gym class for anyone

Excellent Point
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:15 AM on May 9, 2003

Thom: "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" encompasses a hell of a lot more than just being really tired all the time. Take a look around the site I linked above. Extra sleep doesn't fix it, (though yes a lot of teenagers are chronically fatigued by lack of sleep, they don't have the named syndrome).

Okay, really shutting up now.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:16 AM on May 9, 2003

I don't think Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is funny either. I just don't think Blair Hornstine has it.
posted by CoFenchurch at 11:16 AM on May 9, 2003

Many students are looking forward to graduation (June 19) simply because of the many ways we are planning to get a small bit of revenge. Hey, if we're going to pay $2,700,000 for "humiliating" her, we're damn sure gonna get our money's worth.

Imagine you are a HS student attending that graduation... 'Poor' girl, she is in for a tough ride!
posted by MzB at 11:17 AM on May 9, 2003

I've been watching this one because it raises interesting (to me) questions about the lengths that society should go to in order to compensate its members for the viscitudes of Nature...

The simple fact is that Hornstine did not complete the same coursework under the same conditions as her classmates - she had individual tutoring, she had much longer to take tests and she was excused from classes like physical education that other seniors were required to attend. Her education has been singular and therefore, at least to my way of thinking, her GPA represents only her track through high school and should not be used as a basis for comparison with students who followed another track. Considered as an abstract number, yes, her GPA is higher - but she achieved that number by doing significantly less with significantly more time and attention. By all rights, either she should not have qualified to be valedictorian at all, or the entire senior class should have been evaluated as a whole on only the measures that every single student could demonstrably compete on. As mdn points out above, that list of measures would probably end up being ridiculously short...

Unfortunately, whether the school district's rules are "right" or not isn't the point right now, at least not in the specific - the district established the rules and it did give special treatment to disabled kids and nobody's arguing that they didn't. And as far as anyone has proven, Hornstine's played by those rules. They absolutely should change the rules to make them apply to everyone , starting in September. But for them to change the rules now, just weeks before graduation, doesn't seem particularly fair either.
posted by JollyWanker at 11:19 AM on May 9, 2003

Please stop calling her a bitch.

Look, she's only 18 and if the Plastic comment is accurate, she has been acting this way since she was a toddler. If you are going to insult her, at least spread it around to her parents, teachers, and anyone else that condoned or supported her behavior.
posted by PrinceValium at 11:20 AM on May 9, 2003

I swear on my Mother's grave that my children will understand one thing before they leave my care and go out into the world: Life is not fair.
posted by tommyspoon at 11:23 AM on May 9, 2003

The public scorn affected her already fragile health so much that she wasn't in the Camden court yesterday to savor her victory.

The writing on the wall right here to her future...put in a bag and throw it away folks. Meaning how important was this really to her, not.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:23 AM on May 9, 2003

I don't think Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is funny either. I just don't think Blair Hornstine has it.
posted by CoFenchurch at 2:16 PM EST on May 9

(Okay one more)

I was building on psmeasley's second comment. Sorry if I came off as finger waggish. And I agree with you on Ms. Hornstine.

posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:24 AM on May 9, 2003

PinkStainlessTail, I know where coming from to back her up but going by her track record she not listening to her doctors orders then. Especially, if she pursues a busy schedule at school and in the community.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:29 AM on May 9, 2003

i thought that GPA only went up to 4.0. at least it has been at every school i have attended.

in my high school Honors and AP classes were scored as one point higher than other classes. so an A would count as a 5, a B as a 4, etc. (we had no A+, A, A-..., just straight up A, B, C....).
posted by goddam at 11:57 AM on May 9, 2003

i thought that GPA only went up to 4.0. at least it has been at every school i have attended.

Regular classes A=4.0
A P classes A=4.1; B=4.0 C=3.0 {another thread on stretching grades, especially in sports}
posted by thomcatspike at 11:59 AM on May 9, 2003

Inspired by Blair, I am planning to sue my high school. I had chronic boredom syndrome for four years and they did nothing, repeat nothing, to accommodate my disability. I think I have a good chance of being retroactively named valedictorian, though that may not be enough for me. Maybe I should go for superultramegatorian.
posted by Ty Webb at 12:00 PM on May 9, 2003

Same here with our grades in CA, goddam. I think it depends on the state.
posted by LionIndex at 12:03 PM on May 9, 2003

goddam your right 5 for an A. I was thinking person total gpa would be with one AP class and getting all A's.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:07 PM on May 9, 2003

These go to 11.
posted by NortonDC at 12:08 PM on May 9, 2003

G'head, honey, be Valedictorian, put it on yer freakin' resume, sweetheart.

Rest assured that everyone with a lower GPA will be too busy celebarting their graduation by getting drunk and getting laid to care.

Have fun in court.
posted by jonmc at 12:12 PM on May 9, 2003

But why can't they just go to 10, and make 10 louder?
posted by The Michael The at 12:13 PM on May 9, 2003

she had enough energy to join the rest of our senior class on a week-long trip to Disney World and spend 14 hours a day walking around in 80 degree heat... But she's "too tired" to sit at a desk.

posted by quonsar at 12:13 PM on May 9, 2003

I got to be valedictorian fair and square! This lawyered-up wannabe is denigrating the real valedictorian experience for the rest of us! She doesn't belong, she knows it, and now the rest of the world knows it too!

posted by sacre_bleu at 12:15 PM on May 9, 2003

I say we haze her.
posted by NortonDC at 12:16 PM on May 9, 2003

it's really not all that surprising that blair would be up to something like this. i always knew tuti and jo had far more integrity.
posted by quonsar at 12:25 PM on May 9, 2003

I got cheated out of an award once. I had the highest average in Honors English but because I had to miss class occasionally to get my braces tightened, I missed the extra points they gave to people with perfect attendance (how fair was that?!!!!!) so another gal got it.

But back then we only used lawyers for whiplash and stuff.
posted by konolia at 12:25 PM on May 9, 2003

Oh, and eventually even this young lady will run into a "life isn't fair" scenario. Like chicken pox, this is an experience best had when young.
posted by konolia at 12:29 PM on May 9, 2003

"Chronic Fatigue" has become a catch-all, umbrella diagnosis that's often used when a Doctor can't figure out what's doing on, but the school's hands are effectively tied once there's a diagnosis. Until there are better diagnostic tests, it's a diagnosis that invites skepticism. And when coupled with "fight hard for the slightest advantage" behavior, it invites extra skepticism.
posted by dws at 12:30 PM on May 9, 2003

Now betting, she will be suing her parents if this messes up her future life. Starting to look like her daddy the judge has ruled her life. Bet too her dad had her stay home so it would be a safe environment for his princess who is to good to be around "the other" teens.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:32 PM on May 9, 2003

But, konolia, I'm sure your gorgeous smile is the best revenge.
posted by alou73 at 12:34 PM on May 9, 2003

Methinks if she can convince a judge that she's been wronged, she can probably convince a doctor that she's got CFS.

The person I know who has CFS can barely function sometimes. Seems a far cry from this kid. But whatever. Abusing the system is what America is all about. Right?
posted by vraxoin at 12:41 PM on May 9, 2003

I got cheated out of an award once. I had the highest average in Honors English

That sucks, f-english teacher, they can't reason well. Had my freshman English teacher reward me with a B+ for my class but she had added my total up wrong for the class as I had earned an A-. When I pointed it out, she told me that was life and I should be happy and proud with a B+. Being shy/naive I didn't go further with it, but instead learned to hate english.

Problem was it was my first semester in high school and from then on I was never rightfully acknowledge for all my A’s through my senior year. I had one of the highest GPA’s in my class yet was rarely ever a part of the honor society or awards when they were handed out, even though most of my classes were with the class valedictorians, all 7 of them. I guess I could have had a butt-load of a suit with that one.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:48 PM on May 9, 2003

all of which are schools for egotistic prigs.

I choose to assume that Perigree is being facetitious. If not, I, as a graduate of a fancy school, will be suing him or her on the grounds that my people are being unfairly stereotyped and discriminated against on the basis of our educational background.

(Seriously, people that go to competitive-admission schools aren't inherently assholes, egomaniacs, snobs or grade-grubbing pricks. The ones I've met are all pretty nice, pretty conscientious, pretty smart and generally the people I know that are least prone to judge someone on the basis of intelligence or achievement. So back the hell off! Please.)
posted by jengod at 12:50 PM on May 9, 2003

Being shy/naive I didn't go further with it, but instead learned to hate english.

That would explain your continuing assault on it.

posted by jonmc at 12:51 PM on May 9, 2003

At my high school, honors classes were +0.5 towards your GPA, and AP classes +1.0. However, everyone who ended up with a 4.0 GPA or better was named a co-valedictorian, even though they had unequal GPAs. I was one of five co-valedictorians in my class, even though four other people had higher GPAs then me. Didn't make that much difference, though, as we didn't have the valedictorians speak at graduation--we elected a class speaker instead. Which was just fine by me.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:54 PM on May 9, 2003

Actually, I shouldn't knock all english teachers, have had some great one's. But growing up I had several who failed(with their job) me, take a look it shows. So I apologize if you teach english and if you can reason, then your OK in my book. I let Konolia's experience add to mine. I also need to spend more time with it as I do in other areas of my life.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:59 PM on May 9, 2003

jengod: Boola Boola, baybee... :0)
posted by Perigee at 1:04 PM on May 9, 2003

It's clear that the real problem is the lack of tolerance society shows to the differently abled and that in the interests of true equality and not shaming differently abled students, the whole concept of valedictorian should be done away with.

Seriously - that's what the school should do - tell the selfish little girl that there are many people with disabilities in the school system that might have achieved academic excellence if they weren't dyslexic or autistic or whatever ... and therefore, in the interest of fairness, no student will be singled out for honoring. I wonder what kind of logic she'd use to sue over that.
posted by pyramid termite at 1:17 PM on May 9, 2003

I'd boycott my own graduation over a deal like this one. Oh, wait, I did.
posted by Captain Ligntning at 1:18 PM on May 9, 2003

I failed about 10 high school courses and had a D average. I managed that without a diagnosed disability and I feel I deserve some recognition for it. Spicolidictorean?

I have to stop reading this thread now as my heart is bleeding out due to the appalling horror of all the under-recognized overacheivement.
posted by srboisvert at 1:21 PM on May 9, 2003

...we didn't have the valedictorians speak at graduation...

Talk about an assault on the English language...

Or the Latin language, as the case may be.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:41 PM on May 9, 2003

Q. Is there a diagnostic test for CFIDS?
A. No, there is no blood, urine, or imaging test to diagnose CFIDS. The keys to diagnosis are identifying a characteristic pattern of symptoms and excluding other possible causes.

As someone said above, CFIDS is a catch-all term for anything a doctor can't diagnose. I'm not saying that CFIDS doesn't exist, just that it's very convenient disability that doesn't need any medical test to prove you suffer from it, and that obviously gives you considerable academic advantages (homeschooling, etc..)

she had enough energy to join the rest of our senior class on a week-long trip to Disney World and spend 14 hours a day walking around in 80 degree heat... But she's "too tired" to sit at a desk.
Would a true CFIDS sufferer be able to do this?

On the other hand, I'd applaud, encourage and defend this young lady if she suffered from say the Down's Syndrome (or some other serious disability that is clearly diagnosable) and fought for her right to be valedictorian, simply because to succeed academically despite a serious disability is highly regarded, in my book.
posted by ruelle at 2:08 PM on May 9, 2003

I'm sure there are a number of other ways in which weighted GPAs can be manipulated, if my high school is any indication. Can students avoid gym by being involved in a sport? Can they take special honors band classes open only to those who play an instrument? Can they get out of driver's ed by having their parents pay for private lessons? Without knowing any of that, and without knowing how much the salutatorian may have benefited from these kind of loopholes, it's hard to say whether her program of study represented an end-run around the accepted rules. And whether or not it did, the fact is that she was told that her plan of study was valid throughout high school. The rules are that the student with the highest GPA is the valedictorian. Period.

And as for the Daily News columnist's fretting that Blair Hornstine sacrificed "social acceptance" to take this to court - I have a feeling that the acceptance of a Pannsylvania town isn't high on the list of things to worry about for an eighteen-year-old Harvard-bound student. I can't say I'd have taken it this far, but good for her.
posted by transona5 at 2:20 PM on May 9, 2003

Since I had a 2.67 GPA in high school, can I be shitadictorian?

Typically, I find that those who put this much stock in these sorts of awards and titles are filled completely with a sickly-sweet smelling gas, which dissipates quickly when you remove their skin.
posted by UncleFes at 2:22 PM on May 9, 2003

The "disability" issue here is ridiculous. Federal Disability laws were created to prevent an employer from discriminating on the basis of physical disability: for example, an employer couldn't choose to not hire handicapped people because he didn't want to build more ramps, or firing someone after they have been diagnosed with tendonitis or fatigue syndrome. It serves as a way for preventing additional disadvantage from being placed on the disadvantaged.

Yet this girl is not having disadvantage being placed on her because of her disability, she is complaining that she is not being rewarded with advantage because of it. No one OWES her any praise or recognition, and the columnist linked to in the FPP is right on the money about her logical argument albiet a simultaneous moral fallacy.

This is not a situation where a person's inability to perform certain tasks as per qualifications for an award because of a disability were put into question. If the student was not allowed to receive a conduct award because she was "Required"to take gym, that would be grounds for a lawsuit. What is happening here is the exact opposite: essentially, the girl has used her disability to her advantage, not trying to overcome additional obstacles but rather taking advantage of additional benefits of her specific scenario: the lack of a gym requirement and extra tutoring. There is NO outrage here over her having a disability, there is outrage that she has dared to sue because the school didn't agree with her method of bucking the system.

Handicap or not, this girl is clearly irrational and as I said in the earlier thread likely a victim of self-inflicted psychological damage as a result of her own self-obsession. What she is doing is an insult to all disabled people who actually HAD to overcome restrictive adversity. In the course of this story there are countless handicapped students, probably some within this girl's own school, who will fail to ever be recognized as people who actually had disadvantages to overcome.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:29 PM on May 9, 2003

A few points in the lady's defense:

The school changed the rules midway through the game. If valedictorian status has always been conferred purely on the basis of GPA, and if the school decided create multiple valedictorians purely based on the fact that they knew Ms. Hornstine had the highest GPA (and had earned it under special conditions) then it's pretty reasonable for her to be pissed.

She played by the rules and won. If you don't like the rules and you wan't to change them, do it prospectively, not retrospectively.
posted by pjdoland at 2:57 PM on May 9, 2003

First of all, they're not stripping her of her title, they're elevating two others to it along with her. That's like saying you should be allowed to sue because your boss gave out THREE Christmas bonuses instead of the one he promised in the company handbook.

But let's get to a stronger point- it's the fucking school board. You'd think a branch of the public education system could have the clout to decide what they want to do. The idea that this ruling states a legal requirement to name someone valedictorian is in itself ridiculous. What, can she sue if they just decide to cancel the ceremony altogether now? Is the school board legally required to have a ceremony because they said so at the beginning of the year? Can you imagine what horrendous precedent this sets?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:13 PM on May 9, 2003

The school should comply, and have her be the only valedictorian, and further issue a written statement that not only is she the only valedictorian, everyone else in her high school class is, like, totally corroded and are stupid morons with ugly faces and big butts and their butts smell and they like to kiss their own butts. Maybe that would satisfy her.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:54 PM on May 9, 2003

On chronic fatigue thread, I have some personal experience.

Several years ago, I was feeling like crap. New child, lots of work, little sleep, lots of caffiene, no exercise, and I was getting sick all the time. I went to the doctor and she said I was overworked and stressed. She took a bunch of blood for tests and sent me home to rest.

I gave up caffeine & booze. Started Chi Gung and got more sleep. I felt no better. A week after the blood tests, I got a call from the doctor, she said I had to come into discuss my tests.

She told me I had Epstein-Barr's syndrome, a condition closely associated with CFS that occurs when your immune system gets weak. There is no treatment and she told me that rebuilding my immune system with rest, light exercise, and good diet was the best bet.

Even following that advice, within a week I was out of work on sick leave and having a hard time getting out of bed. The feeling is hard to describe, but the best way to describe it is this:

Imagine staying up all night with no caffiene, stay awake until 10AM and try to go to a class and pay attention. You have no energy and your mind is constantly wandering.

After a few weeks of chi gun and a healthier lifestyle, my energy returned and I felt much better.

My point is that a person with persistent CFS would not be able to do what this student has done for extra-curricular activities. NO WAY.

If the person was feeling better, there's no reason not to attend school.

The illness rings hollow with me, based on my personal experience.
posted by Argyle at 4:55 PM on May 9, 2003

What if they held a graduation ceremony, and only she came? Or even, if she missed it through 'tiredness'?
posted by riviera at 4:59 PM on May 9, 2003

Epstein-Barr is the virus that casuses mononucleosis--looks like that's really the only disease it causes, in fact, and not all people infected develop mono. The CDC says that if you still have symptoms for more than 6 months then other causes should be investigated, including CFS. That doesn't sound to me like it's "closely associated", rather that it happens to share some symptoms with CFS (according to the CDC, 95% of adults are infected with the Epstein-Barr virus), so if someone isn't getting better after being diagnosed with mono, then they need to look at other things, too.

I had mono a few years ago, and it sucked. I was constantly tired, my throat was killing me, and the only thing that helped was hot showers. And I didn't find out it was mono until after I felt better, so I got gypped out of taking a week off of work, dammit.
posted by eilatan at 6:03 PM on May 9, 2003

everyone else in her high school class is, like, totally corroded...

Heh. Corroded. I havent heard that one since about forth grade. Blast from the past.
posted by jonmc at 6:36 PM on May 9, 2003

It's already been addressed probably, but what bothers me is the fact that this poor child attaches so much importance to being valedictorian, when we all know that the really important thing in high school is whether or not you get to go to the prom. (I didn't.)
posted by JanetLand at 6:55 PM on May 9, 2003

But, konolia, I'm sure your gorgeous smile is the best revenge

Well, it would have been, if I hadn't lost the retainer right after I got it.

The gal that got the award was actually a very nice person who everyone hated because she won awards and the school pageant and such. She didn't even come to our reunion several years ago even tho she lives right here where it was held.

Which makes me think this valedictorian will have some interesting high school reunions to go to (or avoid.)
posted by konolia at 9:03 PM on May 9, 2003

I have to disagree with those who feel that valedictorians should be eliminated. In the small school where I work, being a valedictorian or salutatorian is the only public recognition ever received by those who strive for good grades all through high school. They also qualify for certain California state scholarships not available to other students.

At our school, athletes pretty much form the core group of "cool" kids and are looked up to by their peers, whereas smart kids are only recognized when they do something else the other kids can dig, like fix their computers or play in a band.

Our school colors are cardinal red, black and white and at graduation, boys wear black caps and gowns, girls wear red and California Scholarship Foundation life members wear white. It looks really cool when they are all gathered together on the stage and it is a visual validation for those who have worked hard all during high school.
posted by Lynsey at 10:30 PM on May 9, 2003

Putting aside the issue of whether this student has a bona fide disability or not, I think the issue that she's raising -- does denying someone an honor because of accommodations granted to them for their disability -- is an important one. I also think that the case was correctly decided as a matter of law, assuming that a) she has a real disability and b) the accommodations she was receiving were reasonable for her specific disability.

First off, under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) once she's established that she has a disability, she's entitled to "reasonable accommodations" for her disability and she can't be discriminated against in grading based on the accommodations that she receives. There is a fairly involved process one must go through to get accommodations--they're not (or at least not supposed to be) approved willy-nilly--so once one has them, there ought to be an presumption that the accommodations are reasonable (i.e. they were necessary to allow the student to learn effectively and "level the playing field" rather than putting her at a distinct advantage). Maybe they weren't reasonable in this case, but that's a very situation-specific inquiry that we just don't have the facts to make judgments about.

Assuming that valedictorian = highest GPA according to the school's definition, it's unquestionably discrimination (IMO) to say, "well, you do indeed have the highest GPA, but because of the accommodations you were legally entitled to for your disability under federal law (combined with faults intrisic to the GPA weighting system that we ourselves designed), we're going to arbitrarily reduce your GPA to make it equal to the #2 person in the class for purposes of class rank. (Oh, and sorry we didn't mention this to you until now)." .

Valedictorian and co-valedictorian are most certainly not the same thing, and to be moved from one category to the other is certainly a harm, and a non-trival one I'm sure from the perspective of valedictorians. And if you don't buy that, imagine instead of this situation, the school had a policy of knocking all kids down 10 slots in their class rank if they had an approved accommodations for a disability that the school deemed to give them some sort of advantage over the other students. Making this girl co-valedictorian is really just a less drastic and much more arbitrary version of doing just that.

This is all just a long-winded way of saying that if you separate your feelings about this particular girl and this particular disability from the core principles at stake, the case starts to look quite different--at least from the perspective of those that care about educational equality for students with disabilities.
posted by boltman at 12:56 AM on May 10, 2003

First off, under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) once she's established that she has a disability, she's entitled to "reasonable accommodations" for her disability and she can't be discriminated against in grading based on the accommodations that she receives.

No, you're missing the point. She was not discriminated against. She was given full accomodation, but then she was given more, advantages in the ability to accumulate grades (more weighted courses, A+ grades from tutors whereas the school doesn't grant A+ grades) that other students didn't have, thus her GPA is the highest by standards different from those of everyone else in her school. It's like having a marathon, but then putting one person on a horse. The person on the horse is obviously going to win, barring extreme circumstances, which Ms. Hornstine has done.

Rather than discriminate against her, the school has in effect discriminated against everyone else in the school.
posted by The Michael The at 4:40 AM on May 10, 2003

If the accommodations did more than was necessary to level the playing field and actually gave the girl an advantage then they were not "reasonable" under IDEA and the fault lies with the school system for approving them in the first place. This is quite possible since IDEA accommodations are supposed to "mainstream" the students as much as possible, and private tutoring sounds like an extreme solution. But without hearing a lot more facts about her condition than you or I are privy to, it's impossible to make a definite conclusion about that.

As far as discriminating against everyone else in the school, it would be a perfectly simple matter for the school to change their system to prevent this. They could for example, stop giving extra weight to AP classes beyond a certain number of classes, treat A+'s as A for purposes of calculating GPA, etc. Just arbitrarily changing the rules ex post after students had been relying on them for 4 years is not an appropriate solution though, especially when the change specifically targets a student with a disability. It must have been an awful feeling for this girl to discover that no matter how smart she was and how hard she might have worked, the school was simply not going to recognize her as the best student in the school because of the accommodations that she was legally entitled to receive.
posted by boltman at 10:32 AM on May 10, 2003

It seems to me that where the school screwed up big time was in stating that it was changing the eligibility in response to her accommodations.

If they'd been smarter, they'd've just said that they were changing the system such that everyone with a GPA over *foo* was a valedictorian because they'd seen other districts do so and liked the results, or some other reason that had nothing to do with her.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:03 AM on May 10, 2003

According to this morning's (5/11) CNN site, Blair (or her parents) got her wish. :(

Almost makes me wish these other students would/could counter-sue or something.
posted by terrapin at 6:59 AM on May 11, 2003

Would a true CFIDS sufferer be able to do this? (re: field trip to Disney)

I will give the girl the benefit of the doubt. You have good days and bad days. She could have felt good enough to go on a field trip one day but felt terrible the very next day. In my experience there is neither rhyme nor reason to it. Of course different people have more or greater symptoms than others as well.
posted by bargle at 10:25 AM on May 11, 2003

Yep, a judge decided to allow this travesty to happen. What's worse, she'll probably get $2.5 million dollars in damages because the school didn't give this benighted little darling what she wanted.

Things like this make me very, very angry. I hope the rest of the students in her class strangle her on stage during her valedictorian speech. Because she alone wanted her title, an entire community will suffer - where in the hell does this little darling think that money's going to come from? Not that she cares - the message I receive is that she is focused solely on her needs and requirements. The rest of these students have now also received the message that, of course, it's not enough that you succeed, but others must also fail - and you can sue to ensure that happens.

I am so friggin' tired of little whiny pains in my ass suing school systems because they didn't get to be head cheerleader or valedictorian or the star quarterback. I don't have kids in school, but I pay property taxes and vote for school levies to keep schools providing a better education - not to line the pockets of some little spoiled bitch who thinks that she's now going to steal an entire year's budget for her school not because she was dissed, but that she'd have to share the honor of being valedictorian.

I wonder what this twit is going to do when she gets to college?
posted by FormlessOne at 9:32 PM on May 11, 2003

"I wonder what this twit is going to do when she gets to college?"

Find some reason to sue THEM if she can't hack it. Let's face it - she has been rewardd every step of the way... why should she stop now?
posted by soulhuntre at 2:51 PM on June 5, 2003

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