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African-American Dancer, Camille Sturdivant Takes School To Court For Racial Discrimination

African-American student Camille Sturdivant takes school to court for racial discrimination having been told she was ‘too dark’ to perform during a school dance. She explained that choreographer Kevin Murakami commented that her skin was too dark and would distract the audience from other dancers and that it clashed with the color of the costumes.

The lawsuit further states that Carley Fine,who happens to be the school’s former dance coach, had been fired after texts between her and Murakam. However, Kansas City News reported her to have been seen at the school and with members of the dance team. Apparently, both Carley Fine and Murakami were not amazed about her winning the spot since she was a black girl;

“THAT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. I’m so mad,” the Murakami wrote. To which Fine responded, “It actually makes my stomach hurt,” and “Bc she’s (expletive) black. I hate that.”

When Sturdivant’s parents informed Blue Valley Northwest Principal Amy Murphy- Pressly about the message and how badly their daughter had been treated, she allegedly said, “Fine could pick whoever she wanted to perform in the dances.”

Sturdivant also claimed that she had been ostracized by the group. At first, she discovered that the team banquet paid for by parents and that had been supposedly canceled had gone on without her. At the final dance performance, all other dancers except the black students had ribbons on their costumes with the initials CL for the former head coach. The black students were also excluded from a photo shoot afterwards. Fine allegedly attended a dinner with parents and dancers at a dance mom’s home as well as a dinner on The Plaza with the team, of which Sturdivant was again,excluded.

The suit names as defendants the school district, principal Amy Pressly, Fine and Katie Porter, the parent of another dancer on the team and a school district teacher.

The school district has released a statement stating that it expects staff to treat all students equally.

“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.”

 

However, Carley Fine has denied the allegations placed against her;

“The federal lawsuit filed against the Blue Valley School District also names the Blue Valley Northwest High School principal, a Blue Valley teacher and me. The focus of most of the actions in the lawsuit is on the school district and several of its employees, but my name has been mentioned in news coverage that has been shared widely on social media.

Because I am named, I am anxiously looking forward to defending myself. It’s tempting to answer accusations, especially when so many of them are false and/or misleading. My legal team, however, insists we defend our case in a courtroom, not on the internet or the evening news.

I have dedicated myself our dancers achieve their goals. This includes not only working with them on their dance skills and routines, but also working with them outside the studio. In no way would I ever want to cause pain, distress or concern.

Getting only one side of a story paints an unattractive picture; it’s not the whole story though. The evidence will clear up so many of the lingering questions surrounding this lawsuit, and I look forward to that.

Thank you to all who have reached out to me, offering your support. So many of you have reminded me that, in this country, the accused has a right to the presumption of innocence.

Please know how seriously I take this lawsuit, and please understand why I have to remain silent for now.”

In a statement issued over the weekend, Todd White, who happens to be Blue Valley Superintendent said:

“Blue Valley Families,

I want to provide you some important information about a topic that may surface in conversations with friends or family. You have likely heard in the news that Blue Valley has been named in a discrimination lawsuit. While there are limitations to what can be shared due to pending litigation, it is important that we share what we know to be true. An African-American student experienced an incident of racial hostility due to the actions of a former coach. We are sorry for this injustice. We also want you to know, when the Blue Valley Northwest administration became aware of any racially motivated conduct, immediate action was taken, including separation of employment with the coach.

As you know, 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 dance team was however suspended for the year.

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