OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -– A former Blue Valley Northwest student has filed a lawsuit alleging the Blue Valley School District and others discriminated against her.
It seems like a story ripped right from the reality show Dance Moms. Camille Sturdivant, a former member of the award-winning Blue Valley Dazzlers dance team, said she was discriminated against because she is black and says she has a text message to prove it.
In an effort to quell the growing concern over allegations of racism against her, former Dazzlers Dance Coach Carley Fine denies the accusations against her.
In a statement provided to FOX4, Fine wrote:
"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."
A text message between fine and the team choreographer is at the center of the discrimination lawsuit filed in Federal Court filed by Sturdivant.
In September, Sturdivant allegedly saw a text message on Fine's cell phone about Sturdivant making the Golden Girls dance team at the University of Missouri, while another dancer did not.
According to court documents, the choreographer, who is not named in the lawsuit, texted Fine:
"That doesn't make sense. I am so mad."
To which fine replied, "It actually makes my stomach hurt." "Because she’s ‘explitive’ black. I hate that."
In the lawsuit, Sturdivant also claims other racist actions leading up to the discovery of the text.
July 2017, the choreographer allegedly told Sturdivant she could not participate in a dance because, “Her skin was too dark and the audience would look at her and not the other dancers." And that, "Her skin color clashed with the color of the costumes.”
When Sturdivant’s parents informed Blue Valley Northwest Principal Amy Murphy- Pressly she allegedly said, "Fine could pick whoever she wanted to perform in the dances."
When the text message came to light two months later, Fine was fired.
The lawsuit also alleges Murphy-Pressly told Coach Fine she could not have contact with members of the Dazzlers dance team.
Sturdivant claims that is just lip service.
Within a week after she was fired, 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.
Sturdivant said she was excluded from both.
The lawsuit claims Principal Murphy-Pressly told Sturdivant’s parents that there was nothing she could do because the dinners were not school sanctioned events. They disagree because a Blue Valley Northwest teacher whose daughter was on the Dazzlers dance team allegedly attended both events.
In a statement issued over the weekend, Blue Valley Superintendent Todd White 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."
Superintendent White suspended the dazzlers dance team for the rest of the school year.
Fine now owns Perception Dance Company in Lenexa, Kansas.