Teen told her skin was 'too dark' to perform on dance squad, lawsuit alleges

Elise Solé
Former Blue Valley Northwest High School student Camille Sturdivant is suing her district for racial discrimination during her time as a dance squad member. (Photo: Google Maps)
Former Blue Valley Northwest High School student Camille Sturdivant is suing her district for racial discrimination during her time as a dance squad member. (Photo: Google Maps)

A teen is suing her former high school district after she was allegedly informed that her skin color was “too dark” for her to perform on the dance team and that it “clashed” with uniforms.

In December, Camille Sturdivant filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against Blue Valley Unified School District in Overland Park, Kansas, for singling out her race during her time on the dance squad, the Dazzlers.

The lawsuit of Sturdivant — who was one of two black members of the 14-person team at Blue Valley Northwest High School — alleges that in July 2017, school choreographer Kevin Murakami, on behalf of coach Carley Fine, told Sturdivant that she couldn’t dance in a scheduled performance because her skin was “too dark” and that it “clashed” with the color of the costumes.

In September, Sturdivant’s parents met with principal Amy Murphy-Pressly, who allegedly said Fine had authority to select dancers of her choosing. Sturdivant continued to perform on the Dazzlers but said Fine was “dismissive” in her treatment, according to the suit.

This past May, while helping Fine with practice, the coach handed Sturdivant her cell phone to play music when a text message from the choreographer flashed onto the screen, allegedly discussing the recent news that Sturdivant had been accepted to the “Golden Girls” dance team at the University of Missouri for the following year.

The alleged text thread between the women is as follows:

Murakami: “I can’t believe Maggie didn’t make it again. I’m heartbroken.”

Fine: “AND CAMILLE (Sturdivant) MADE MENS. I can’t talk about it.”

Murakami: “THAT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. I’m so mad.”

Fine: “It actually makes my stomach hurt.

Murakami: haha (emoji)

Fine: “Bc she’s f***ing black. I hate that.”

Murakami: “me too.”

The lawsuit says Sturdivant was “sickened” by the messages and showed them to her parents and Pressly, but it’s not explained in the document how Sturdivant obtained them from Fine’s phone. Sturdivant’s attorney declined to comment to Yahoo Lifestyle.

Fine was allegedly fired the next day but the Sturdivants claim the coach continued to interact with the Dazzlers at on- and off-campus events. For instance, Pressley allegedly told Sturdivant’s parents that a team banquet paid for by Dazzler parents was canceled; however, post-dinner photos showed the event was held as scheduled. Fine was allegedly present but Sturdivant was not.

During a final Dazzler performance, team members, except for Sturdivant and the other dancer of color, wore purple ribbons with Fine’s initials; both girls were also allegedly excluded from a group photo.

Sturdivant says the school denied her educational benefits due to her race and did not protect her from exclusion. She’s seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

A Blue Valley Unified School District spokesperson told Yahoo Lifestyle:

“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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