A student in the Blue Valley School District was allegedly banned from performing with school dance team because her skin was "too dark."
An African-American girl was allegedly told she was “too dark” to have a part in the school dance. She decided to take a stand and filed a racial discrimination suit against the Blue Valley School District.
Camille Sturdivant is a graduate from Blue Valley Northwest High School. She graduated in May 2018 and was one of two African-American students who were part of the Dazzlers dance team. The team consisted of 14 members total.
The teen has now filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan against the Blue Valley School District. The suit alleges that Sturdivant suffered racial discrimination.
It goes on to explain that she had been ostracized from dance team events. She alleges it was a retaliation to complaints she had made about how she was treated because of her race.
The allegations apparently pertain to an incident from 2017. According to the student, the dance team choreographer, Kevin Murakami allegedly commented that her skin was too dark for her to take part.
He went on to add that her skin color would be distracting to the audience. He claimed it would prevent them from watching the other dancers.
“Murakami also told Sturdivant that her skin color clashed with the color of the costumes,” the suit alleges.
The lawsuit revealed that last year, the dance team’s coach, Carley Fine, was fired. Apparently, she was let go after she made racial comments about Sturdivant.
Fine worked for Blue Valley Schools as an assistant drill team coach before being promoted to the head drill team coach in July 2016. Shortly before her graduation, Sturdivant was given the coach’s phone and instructed to play music for the dance team.
While playing music, she came across text messages between Fine and Murakami. According to the suit, Sturdivant had just won a spot on the Golden Girls dance team at the University of Missouri in the coming year.
The text messages read, “THAT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. I’m so mad,” the choreographer wrote. to which the coach responded, “It actually makes my stomach hurt. Bc she’s (expletive) black. I hate that.”
Sturdivant showed the texts to her parents, who in turn brought them to the attention of the school principal. The coach was fired the next day and instructed she could not be on school property or contact Sturdivant or other members of the dance team.
However, the former coach ignored the instructions. She had been seen at the school and interacting with members of the dance team several times after.
Sturdivant’s family was then informed the team banquet paid for by parents was canceled. However, it was later revealed that the entire team and coaching staff except Sturdivant had attended the dinner on the date it had been initially planned.
During their final dance performance of the school year, all of the team members wore ribbons on their costumes with the initials CL for Carley Fine with the exception of Sturdivant and the other African-American team member. The suit also claims that Sturdivant and the other African-American student were excluded from team photos taken after the event on school property.
The suit names the district, school principal Amy Pressly, Fine and Katie Porter, the parent of another dancer on the team and school district teacher, as defendants. It seeks an unspecified amount in damages.
The Blue Valley district released a formal press statement on Wednesday regarding the lawsuit:
“Respectful and meaningful relationships between staff and students are at the heart of Blue Valley’s culture. Discrimination of any kind has no place here. The District expects staff to treat all students with respect at all times, and any report that this expectation has not been fulfilled is taken very seriously. As stated in the Complaint, on May 1, 2018, Mrs. Sturdivant showed Dr. Pressly the text message between Mr. Murakami and Ms. Fine. Ms. Fine’s employment with the District was separated the following day on May 2, 2018.”
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