A black student is suing her former Kansas high school district and its staff on the grounds that she was racially discriminated against as a member of the school’s dance team, with staff telling her she couldn’t participate in a performance because of her skin color.
Camille Sturdivant, who graduated in May 2018, claims she was eventually ostracized from gatherings of the Dazzlers dance team after she reported the alleged discrimination to officials with the Blue Valley Unified School District and the dance coach was fired. The lawsuit was filed in December in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas.
The suit alleges that choreographer Kevin Murakami and now-former coach Carley Fine excluded Sturdivant from a dance performance at Blue Valley Northwest High School in Overland Park in July 2017 because of her race. Murakami allegedly told her that her dark skin would be a distraction for the audience and that it would clash with the colors of the costumes.
Sturdivant’s parents complained to school Principal Amy Pressly about their daughter’s exclusion in September 2017, but were told that Fine was allowed to choose which dancers she wanted.
Fine was fired in May 2018 after she was found to have sent text messages to Murakami that deplored Sturdivant’s acceptance into the University of Missouri’s Golden Girls dance team for the following academic year, according to the lawsuit.
“THAT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. I’m so mad,” Murakami allegedly texted Fine after hearing news of Sturdivant’s acceptance.
“It actually makes my stomach hurt,” Fine allegedly responded. “Bc she’s fucking black. I hate that.”
In a statement to HuffPost, Fine said the lawsuit includes a number of false and/or misleading accusations and tells only one side of the story. Because of the ongoing litigation, she said she has been advised by her lawyer not to address the specific allegations at this time.
“The evidence will clear up so many of the lingering questions and shocking allegations surrounding this lawsuit, and I look forward to that,” Fine stated.
The text messages, which were detailed in the lawsuit, were allegedly discovered by Sturdivant after Fine gave the student her cell phone so she could play music during a dance routine. Sturdivant said the messages popped up. She shared them with her parents and Pressly.
Fine was fired the following day and ordered to stay off the school’s property and away from its students. Despite these orders, the lawsuit claims that Fine continued to interact with team members and that Sturdivant was the one excluded from events.
These exclusions allegedly included a team dinner that Sturdivant was told had been canceled. The dinner went on as planned but at a parent’s house with Fine in attendance. A team photo was also taken without Sturdivant and a second African-American dancer on the team.
For the dance team’s final performance of the academic year, all of the members except for Sturdivant and the other black dancer wore ribbons with Fine’s initials on them, the suit alleges.
Representatives for the school district said in a statement obtained by the Kansas City Star that it shuns discrimination “of any kind” and confirmed that it fired Fine after the text messages were presented to Pressly by Sturdivant.
“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 statement read.
The lawsuit, which names the school district, Pressly, Fine and a parent of one of the team’s dancers as defendants, seeks a trial by jury.