High school student banned from performing with dance team because her skin was ‘too dark’: Lawsuit

A Kansas teen is suing the high school she previously attended, alleging repeated discrimination which entailed her being told that she couldn’t perform with her dance team because her skin was “too dark.”

Per The Kansas City StarCamille Sturdivant alleged she was one of two African-American students on the 14-member Dazzler’s dance team at Blue Valley Northwest High School. The lawsuit claimed that Sturdivant was not only discriminated against due to her race but was excluded from dance events when she called attention to it.

The suit cited a July 2017 incident when Dazzlers choreographer Kevin Murakami said her skin was too dark and would cause the audience to not look at the other dancers. Sturdivant said she was also told she couldn’t perform because her skin tone “clashed with the color of the costumes.”

ABC News reported that the lawsuit alleged Murakami acted under the instruction of dance coach Carley Fine.

The following September, Sturdivant’s family reportedly complained to the principal, Amy Murphy Pressly, about the teen’s exclusion from the dance. Pressly told them that Fine could choose whomever she wanted to perform in the dances, according to the lawsuit.

Sturdivant remained on the team until she graduated in May 2018. Before her graduation, the teen said she was using Fine’s phone to play music during rehearsal and was “sickened” by the texts between the coach and choreographer.

At the time, Sturdivant had been accepted to the University of Missouri and was offered a spot on the school’s dance team, according to the lawsuit.

“THAT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. I’m so mad,” the choreographer purportedly wrote about her.

To which Fine allegedly responded, “It actually makes my stomach hurt. Bc she’s f**king black. I hate that.”

Sturdivant’s parents reportedly showed the principal the text messages. The lawsuit stated that Fine was supposedly fired and instructed to not be on school property or have contact with any of the dancers. However, the teen claimed the ex-coach was spotted several times with the team on school grounds since her termination.

The lawsuit went on to allege that the principal informed Sturdivant’s family that a team banquet, paid for by Dazzlers parents, was canceled. However, the high-schooler reportedly learned that Fine attended a dinner with the team the night of the canceled banquet.

According to The Star, the lawsuit also referred to an incident which occurred during the final dance performance of the school year. All but the two African-American students on the team reportedly wore ribbons on their costumes with the initials “CL” in homage to Fine. Afterward, Sturdivant and the other student were allegedly excluded from taking photos with the team on school property.

Sturdivant is seeking unspecified amount damages from Fine, Pressly, and the Blue Valley Unified School District.

“Respectful and meaningful relationships between staff and students are at the heart of Blue Valley’s culture,” the school district wrote in a statement issued in response to the litigation.

“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.”

[Featured Image: Camille Sturdivant/Facebook]