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A black student who claims she was prevented from performing with her school’s dance team because her skin was “too dark” is suing her Kansas school district for discrimination.
On December 5, Camille Sturdivant, filed a lawsuit against the Blue Valley School District, the Kansas City Star reports. Before graduating from Blue Valley Northwest High School in Overland Park in May 2018, Sturdivant claims that she was subject to racial discrimination on school grounds, the majority of which allegedly occurred during her time on the dance team, where she was just one of two black students.
In the suit, Sturdivant alleges that in 2017, dance team choreographer Kevin Murakami told her that “her skin was too dark and the audience would look at her and not the other dancers,” and that she “clashed with the color of the costumes.” Sturdivant also claims that dance team coach Carley Fine made racist remarks about her in texts with Murakami, which she saw once when Fine asked her to play music from her phone; in one particular text, Fine suggested to Murakami that Sturdivant had only been accepted to the University of Missouri’s “Golden Girls” dance team because “she’s f*ckin black,” per the lawsuit.
After Sturdivant saw the texts on May 1, 2018, she showed them to the school principal, who fired Fine the next day — though her problems reportedly didn’t end there. After Fine’s contract was terminated, the suit claims that Sturdivant’s family was told that the dance team parents’ banquet was canceled, as Fine was reportedly banned from contacting Sturdivant or any other member of the team. However, Sturdivant later found out that the other dancers — and the fired coach — went out to eat the day of the cancelled banquet. And, following the dance team’s last performance, Sturdivant claims that she and the one other black student were prohibited from taking team photos after the fact.
In response to Sturdivant’s lawsuit, Blue Valley School District released a statement reiterating that the school dismissed Fine on May 2, and that all students deserve equal treatment. (No specific allegations were addressed.)
“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,” the district said in a statement.
Per ABC News, Sturdivant is seeking a jury trial and an unspecified amount in “actual damages, compensatory and punitive damages.”