Despite her straight A's, Karen Scherr was not eligible for the top slot in her graduating class of 800 students at Kingwood High School because she missed the first six weeks of her junior year while being treated for anorexia.
A student must be enrolled on the 20th day of junior year to be eligible to become valedictorian, according to school policy. Changing the policy retroactively would be unfair to other students, the district said.
School officials told Scherr, 18, and her family Monday that the honorary title was their best offer, district spokeswoman Karen Collier said. Scherr accepted the title on Tuesday.
Scherr said she had known she could lose the title, "but in my teenager's mind, I was hopeful that it wouldn't have to happen." She said she did not want to risk her recovery by returning to school too soon or for the wrong reason.
"In life," she told The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm Wednesday, "what's important and what's not important is something we really have to learn. Having this title was not nearly as important as my health and getting better."
Scherr told Storm her recovery from anorexia has been "very successful. I had a lot of help and support from my family and friends and I'm very thankful."
The honorary title will allow Scherr to speak at her May 27 graduation, and her picture will be placed on the school's "Wall of Honor" with that of the official valedictorian, Alex Gorham, whose grade average is a fraction lower than hers.
Gorham and other students lobbied for Scherr, saying she deserved to be valedictorian more than anyone after overcoming the life-threatening illness.
Among the others backing Scherr was Lauren Bonds, editor of the school newspaper. She is also a recovering anorexic.
Scherr tells CBS News the other top ten students in the class met with the superintendent of schools on Friday to propose that Scherr be named co-valedictorian.
According to Scherr, the others argued that she should really be No. 1., Gorham said he was fine being salutatorian and the No. 3 student said she was fine with nothing.
Bonds commented to Storm Wednesday that, "I know how hard it is to get through that disorder, and the fact that she was able to make up all the work on top of trying to recover is just amazing to me. So, I couldn't believe that they would, you know, take this title away from her that she so deserves."
Gorham said to Storm, "I have known Karen for a long time. She's a magnificent person. She went to a camp for six weeks in a different state and still managed to maintain the rank of No. 1, and overcome an eating disorder, which shows a lot to me. She deserves (to be valedictorian) more than anyone in the school."