A Black student is taking a Missouri school district to court after she says she was barred from performing with her school’s dance team because her skin was “too dark.”
Camille Sturdivant‘s lawsuit accuses the Blue Valley School District of racial discrimination and claims school leaders excluded her from dance team events after she complained about how she was being treated, according to The Kansas City Star. The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount in damages.
Sturdivant, who graduated from Blue Valley Northwest High School in May 2018, was just one of two Black students on the 14-member Dazzlers dance team.
According to the lawsuit, team choreographer Kevin Murakami made the comment about Sturdivant’s skin in 2017, saying it was too dark and would distract the audience from the other dancers on the floor.
“Murakami also told Sturdivant that her skin color clashed with the color of the costumes,” the complaint alleges.
The suit also contends the dance team’s coach, Carley Fine, was fired for making racist remarks about Sturdivant’s skin tone. District officials said Fine had worked for Blue Valley Schools since 2016, when she was first brought on as assistant drill team coach and later as head drill team coach.
The complaint mentions damning text messages between Murakami and Fine, who were discussing news that Sturdivant had earned a spot on the University of Missouri’s “Golden Girls” dance team for next year. The teen discovered them while using Fine’s cellphone to play music for the dance team.
“THAT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. I’m so mad,” the choreographer wrote.
Fine responded, “It actually makes my stomach hurt … Bc she’s (expletive) black. I hate that.”
“Sickened” by the texts, Sturdivant them showed them to her mother, who then showed them to the school’s principal. Fine was terminated the next day and banned from school property. However, the lawsuit claims she was seen at school with several members of the dance team on multiple occasions afterward.
Sturdivant soon found herself being ostracized from the group. For instance, she said she and the other African-American dancer were excluded from team photos after their final performance of the year and wasn’t invited to an end-of-year banquet — a banquet that was allegedly canceled.
The college-bound teen later learned that Fine and all of the other dancers met for dinner on the same night of the “canceled” banquet.
Principal Amy Pressley, Fine and Katie Porter, the parent of another dancer on the squad, are all named a defendants in the suit.
In a statement, The Blue Valley School District, which is also named, said it doesn’t tolerate discrimination of any kind.
“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,” it read. “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.”