Destiny Brannon said she’s been ranked in the top two of her class since freshman year. It wasn't until weeks after graduation, after delivering the valedictorian's speech at graduation, that she was told her class ranking had changed and that she was actually number three out of 708 students.
"My name is Destiny Brannon and I am the valedictorian of the class of 2018,” said the DeSoto High School student in her speech at graduation.
On May 31, years of hard work and dedication were finally paying off for the 18-year-old, or so it seemed.
She's now being told, she's not valedictorian after all. It's a change that not only affects her pride, but possibly her financial future. In Texas, students with that top honor get a year of free tuition.
"I feel like they're trying to take something away from me that I worked hard on,” said Destiny. "It's embarrassing just having peers laugh because I know people talk."
Her parents were told about the miscalculation on June 19.
“My heart dropped. I basically froze. Just total disbelief,” said Samantha Brannon.
She also works at the school and she's been double-checking her daughter's transcripts.
"I had so many questions, so many things running through my mind because I could not understand how this happened,” her mother said.
The transcripts from January and even June 6 showed Destiny as number one, but on June 12, she dropped to three.
Destiny expressed concern that her valedictory speech may have ruffled some feathers.
"This school year has been a troubling one for me and DeSoto ISD school system. We were challenged with sub-par teachers who weren't there to benefit the needs of DeSoto students,” she said in her address to students.
"In my heart, I feel like it was manipulated. I feel like people didn't like my speech,” she said.
A DeSoto ISD spokesperson told NBC 5 the school board was already aware of her sentiment and that it had no bearing on the change. She said the district investigated and found that school officials used fall standings to appoint valedictorian. The spokesperson said those at fault have been held accountable and there's now a new process in place so this doesn't happen again.
The district said it's reached out to both students affected and apologized, but the Brannons said they haven't gotten an apology yet or an explanation.
"We've been trying to sit down and figure out as parents how we're going to get her to the University of Texas because at this point we don't know,” said Joe Brannon, Destiny’s father.
They're now worried they might be left with unexpected costs, trying to get their last of six kids off to college - the one, with the best grades.
The district said it's not aware of this miscalculation affecting Destiny's tuition, but it plans to work with both students to right this wrong.
DeSoto ISD has apologized to the families. We are 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 by ensuring qualified and experienced leaders on every campus, ensuring all teaching spots are filled with experienced candidates and that we are implementing checkpoints of accountability across our processes while clarifying expectations to teachers, administrators and staff members with regard to their role in the district’s ability to meet the needs of the students and families we serve.
As for the student who is now being told he's valedictorian - the district said it's planning to recognize him at the appropriate time.
Destiny Brannon has set up a GoFundMe page for anyone who would like to contribute to her college education. The page can be found here.