Family withdraws co-valedictorian honor

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Cody Stephens

HALL COUNTY, Ga.,None - The family of Charlie Bryant, appointed as Gainesville High School's co-valedictorian this year, decided to withdraw the student from participating in the ceremonial recognition at graduation.

"Because of Cody’s unique position of being our first African American valedictorian, we propose that Gainesville High School utilize the upcoming graduation ceremony to celebrate his, and only his, academic record as valedictorian of perhaps one of the most talented classes that GHS has ever produced," Bryant's family said in a statement Monday afternoon.

The family's announcement comes just hours after the Gainesville School Board, with the exception of one member, voted to uphold the high school principal's controversial decision to have two valedictorians. Cody Stephens’ supporters inisist he should not have to share the valedictorian honor with another student because Stephens’ grade point average is higher by one one-hundredth of a point.

But school board officials said after much consideration, "the interpretation and implementation of those procedures by Principal Chris Mance and the leadership team of Gainesville High School that led to the designation of dual valedictorians for the Class of 2012 was reasonable and rational."

Community activists met last week to discuss their concerns about the principal’s decision.  One school board member told Channel 2’s Carol Sbarge that Mance followed school policy in his decision-making, but admits the policy was questionable.

Bryant's family encourages the community to celebrate the hard work of both students, despite the controversy.

"Cody and Charlie, as students and friends, can deservedly share the honor at school, and we as a community, can collectively lift up Cody’s accomplishments as a unifying element to be proudly witnessed on graduation day."