New Jersey high school student asks judge to name her sole vale

Sunday, May 4, 2003

The AssociatedPress

MOORESTOWN, N.J. -- Blair Hornstine's latest report card had four A-plus grades in five courses. She scored a 1570 out of 1600 on the SAT and is deciding whether to attend Harvard, Stanford, Duke, Princeton or Cornell -- all of which have accepted her.

But despite her best-in-her-class grades, her school district wants to name her co-valedictorian with two other students.

Hornstine, the 18-year-old daughter of a state Superior Court judge, has asked a federal judge to intervene, saying that being forced to share with students with lesser grades would detract from what she has accomplished.

She has also filed a notice saying she plans to sue the school district in state court claiming the dispute has humiliated her. She said she would be asking for $200,000 in compensatory damages and $2.5 million in punitive damages.

Her school district looks at the disagreement another way: Because of an immune deficiency, Hornstine is classified as a disabled student and has taken a class load that doesn't include physical education and involves her spending part of her school day studying at home.

The two other Moorestown High School seniors with nearly perfect grades could not match her grade-point average, officials said, because classes like gym receive less weight in calculating the GPA.

U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson set a hearing for May 8, and the Moorestown Board of Education planned to consider what to do about the situation at a May 12 meeting.

Graduation is June 19.

Hornstine, who said she plans to become a lawyer, is not the first student to sue over the right to be valedictorian of a high school class.

In the last year alone, judges have been asked to consider similar cases in Ohio, Washington and Michigan. In two of the cases, students who wanted to be included as co-valedictorians were allowed by judges to be included. The third case, in Michigan, involves a student who wanted an A changed to an A+ so he would be more likely to be valedictorian.

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