A Black Kansas teen is suing the Blue Valley School District, alleging that her dance coach told her that her skin was “too dark.”
While on the team, (Sturdivant graduated in May 2018), the teen claims she dealt with racial discrimination and was excluded from team events for complaining about how she was treated.
The lawsuit claims that, in 2017, dance choreographer Kevin Murakami told the Sturdivant that her skin was too dark and would distract the audience from looking at the other team members.
“Murakami also told Sturdivant that her skin color clashed with the color of the costumes,” the suit reads.
Unfortunately, that’s not all. In 2018, Carley Fine, the dance team’s coach, was fired due to the racial remarks she made about Sturdivant, the lawsuit claims.
Just before she graduated, Sturdivant discovered texts between Fine and Murakami that discussed her and the color of her skin, according to the Star.
The teen discovered the messages when she was given Fine’s phone to play music. Fine and Murakami appeared to take issue with the fact that Sturdivant had won a spot on the Golden Girls dance team at the University of Missouri for the next school year.
“THAT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. I’m so mad,” Murakami allegedly wrote.
“It actually makes my stomach hurt,” Fine responded. “Bc she’s (expletive) Black. I hate that.”
Sturdivant, “sickened” by the messages, showed them to her parents, who then took the issue up with the principal.
Fine was fired the next day and was prohibited from having contact with Sturdivant or any of the other dance team members, and also prohibited from being on school property.
Despite that, Fine was still seen at school with members of the dance team several times afterward, according to the lawsuit.
To add insult to injury, Sturdivant’s family was told that a team banquet that was paid for by parents was canceled, only to find out that Fine and all of the other dancers had gone to a dinner on the same date that the canceled banquet was supposed to be held.
The microaggressions allegedly continued, with all the members of the team—except for Sturdivant and the other Black member—wearing ribbons with Fine’s initials on their costumes for the final dance performance of the school year. The two Black students were also left out of team photos taken after the event on school property.
Sturdivant is seeking an unspecified amount in damages through the lawsuit, which lists the district, school principal Amy Pressly, Fine, and Katie Porter, the parent of another dancer on the team and a school district teacher, as defendants.
The Blue Valley School District issued a statement regarding the lawsuit, predictably claiming that it does not condone discrimination.
“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,” the statement read. “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.”