- University of Missouri student Camille Sturdivant is suing her former high school’s district for racial discrimination.
- Sturdivant, who is black, claims that she was discriminated against while on the dance team at Blue Valley Northwest High School in Overland Park, Kansas.
- She claims in the lawsuit that the team’s choreographer told her she was “too dark” to perform in a dance number and that her skin colour “clashed” with costumes.
- The dance coach was fired after Sturdivant saw an alleged text conversation between the coach and choreographer in which they expressed shock over the teen making Missouri’s dance team, the lawsuit says.
A black student is suing her former high school’s district after she was allegedly told by her dance team’s choreographer that her skin was “too dark” to perform because she “clashed” with uniforms.
Camille Sturdivant, now a student at the University of Missouri, filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the Blue Valley Unified School District in Overland Park, Kansas, last month.
In court documents seen by INSIDER and first reported on by the Kansas City Star, she claimed that during her time on Blue Valley Northwest High School’s dance team she was singled out because of her race.
Sturdivant was one of two black members of the 14-person squad, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit alleged that in July 2017, the team’s choreographer, Kevin Murakami, on behalf of coach Carley Fine, told Sturdivant she couldn’t perform in an upcoming dance because her skin colour “clashed” with the costumes.
He also allegedly told her that her skin was “too dark,” and that audience members would look at her rather than the other dancers because of it.
Months later in September 2017, Sturdivant’s parents met with the school’s principal to discuss the matter, but were told that Fine could select whichever dancers she thought fit for performances.
The following May, while playing music through Fine’s phone during a practice, a message from Murakami appeared on the screen, allegedly discussing that Sturdivant had been accepted to perform on the University of Missouri’s dance team, the Golden Girls, the following school year.
The lawsuit alleges that their conversation said:
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.”
Sturdivant had been selected for Missouri’s Golden Girls’ Men’s team, the highest level dance squad at the university.
Court documents do not explain how Sturdivant obtained a copy of the thread, but says she showed the conversation to her parents, who showed the texts to school officials.
Fine was fired the next day, but stayed in close contact with the team, and even attended their team banquet, which Sturdivant’s parents had been told was canceled, the lawsuit alleged.
Sturdivant claimed in her lawsuit that the school district did not protect her from exclusion, and denied her educational benefits because of her race. She’s seeking an unspecified amount of damages.
INSIDER has contacted Blue Valley Unified School District for comment.
A school district spokesperson told the Kansas City Star: “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.”
Read the full complaint below:
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