Kansas City, KS — Camille Sturdivant, a Black teen dancer, has filed a lawsuit against the Blue Valley School District in Kansas City for the racial discrimination she experienced as a member of its dance team. She says that one time, she was even forbidden to perform with the dance team just because her skin was ‘too dark.’
Sturdivant, who graduated from Blue Valley Northwest High School in Overland Park in May 2018, was one of the only two Black members of the 14-member Dazzlers dance team.
According to the lawsuit filed on December 5th, the team’s choreographer, Kevin Murakami made a disparaging comment about Sturdivant’s skin on July 2017 when he decided alongside the team’s coach, Carley Fine, that she shouldn’t join the performance. He told her that “her skin was too dark and the audience would look at her and not the other dancers.”
The lawsuit added that Murakami even told Sturdivant that her skin color “clashed with the color of the costumes.”
A few weeks later, Sturdivant’s parents met with the school’s principal, Amy Murphy Pressly, to complain about her being excluded from the performance. However, Pressly only told them that Fine could “pick whoever she wanted to perform in the dances.”
Although Sturdivant remained as a member of the dance team after that incident, she still felt that she is being discriminated. The lawsuit stated that Fine continued being “dismissive” of her and still tried to block her from some performances as long as she can.
In May, Sturdivant was assigned to play music for the dance team using Fine’s cell phone when she found sickening text messages between Fine and Murakami, who were talking about the news that she earned a spot on the “Golden Girls” dance team at the University of Missouri next year.
“THAT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. I’m so mad,” Murakami texted.
“It actually makes my stomach hurt,” Fine replied and then added, “Bc she’s f—– black. I hate that.”Sturdivant took a picture of the conversation and showed it to her parents, who showed it to the school principal. Fine was fired the next day and was banned from school property. However, she was allegedly still seen in several events at school and with the dance team members despite that.
Moreover, the lawsuit also stated that she and the other Black member wasn’t included from the team’s final photos. She was also informed that a team banquet has been canceled even though later on, they found out that the supposed-to-be canceled event still ensued and was attended by Fine and all the other dancers.
The lawsuit named Fine, Pressly, Katie Porter, who is a parent of another member of the dance team who participated on excluding Sturdivant from the banquet, and the Blue Valley Unified School District as defendants. She is requesting for a jury trial and is seeking an unspecified amount in “actual damages, compensatory and punitive damages.”
The school district has since issued a statement that says, “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.”