Alpine High graduate sues school claiming GPA may have been miscalculated, costing her a valedictorian seat

An Alpine High School graduate is getting national attention after she filed a lawsuit against her school and represented herself in court.
Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 6:29 PM CDT
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ALPINE, Texas (KOSA) - An Alpine High School graduate is getting national attention after filing a lawsuit against her school and representing herself in court.

The student suspects her GPA was miscalculated, potentially costing her a valedictorian title.

Dalee Sullivan walked the graduation stage at Alpine High School, ranking third in her class, but she doesn’t trust the methods used to add up her grades.

All the lawyers in her area would have charged more than $75,000 to take up her case, so now she’s representing herself in court.

“I swear it’s like I graduated law school this year having to pine through all these documents,” Sullivan said. “Something that an 18-year-old shouldn’t have to do.”

We sat down with Sullivan, who says she’s spent her last weeks of high school trying to find answers because she says the GPA on her transcript doesn’t match the school’s policies.

She pointed out that a Physics class was factored into her grades, although she said it shouldn’t have.

“That is not required to graduate,” she said. “And so, it shouldn’t be counted.”

Sullivan said it’s vice versa for a Federal Government class.

“It is required to graduate,” she said. “They’re not counting it.”

As well as a British Literature course.

“They’re counting it for the first semester, but not the second,” she said. “So, there’s just no clear following of the rules.”

Those three classes could make all the difference.

Sullivan said the gap between her and the valedictorian is less than a point.

That fraction of a point would save Sullivan about $31,000 in tuition each year at the out-of-state college she’s attending in the fall.

“And I can’t help but wonder if that’s why I haven’t received certain acceptances or certain scholarships,” Sullivan said.

Alpine ISD did acknowledge one mistake in court.

Superintendent Becky McCutchen wrote in an affidavit that at first, grades were not being weighed according to the district’s newly updated grading policy. However, McCutchen said that even when grades were weighed again with the correct process, Sullivan still ranked third in her class.

She also told the court that all of the classes needed for graduation had been added to Sullivan’s GPA calculation.

When we spoke to McCutchen before the lawsuit had been presented to her, she said she’s confident the class ranks are correct.

“And as of right now, we truly believe everything we have done has been legal,” McCutchen said.

At this point, Sullivan isn’t convinced.

She wants a third party unaffiliated with Alpine ISD to recalculate the grades to determine how her four years of hard work add up.

“I can’t give it up,” Sullivan said. “I have to fight this until I know it’s correct. And if that means I remain in third, I’ll accept that but not until everything is correct and all the policies have been followed.”

The judge denied Sullivan’s request for a third-party audit, but he did rule that the graduate can go through with the school’s grievance process.

That means the school will have to send her a written response explaining how they calculated the class ranking. If that’s not satisfactory, Sullivan can set up a meeting with the school board to make her case.

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