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Lawsuit: Student told her skin was ‘too dark’ to perform

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A black student has filed a lawsuit against a Kansas school district alleging she was prevented from performing with her high school’s dance team after being told her skin was “too dark” and would clash with the color of the team’s costumes.

Camille Sturdivant also alleges she was subjected to racial discrimination and ostracized after she complained about how she was treated in the Blue Valley School District, The Kansas City Star reported .

Sturdivant graduated in May 2018 from Blue Valley Northwest High School, where she was one of two black students on the 14-member Dazzlers dance team. The lawsuit alleges the team’s choreographer made the comments about her dark skin in 2017, and that the team’s coach was fired because of racial comments she made about Sturdivant in text messages with the choreographer.

The Blue Valley school district released a statement Wednesday confirming that Sturdivant showed the principal the text messages and that the coach’s employment ended the next day. The district didn’t specifically address other allegations in the lawsuit, but said: “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.”

Sturdivant alleges she saw text messages between the two when she was given the coach’s phone to play music for the team. The texts discussed how Sturdivant had been named to the Golden Girls dance team at the University of Missouri for the next year, with the coach and choreographer expressing distaste for the decision. The coach also used an expletive when saying she believed Sturdivant was chosen because she was black, according to the lawsuit.

Sturdivant showed the texts to her parents, who showed them to the school’s principal, Amy Pressly. The coach was fired the next day. The lawsuit alleges the coach was also told she could not be on school property or have contact with Sturdivant or any other member of the dance team, but that she was seen at the school and with members of the dance team several times.

Sturdivant alleges her family was told the team banquet paid for by parents was canceled, but that she later learned the fired coach and all the other dancers ate together on the County Club Plaza on the same date as the canceled banquet.

All the members of the dance team except Sturdivant and the other black member wore ribbons during their last performance with their former coach’s initials, CL. The two black team members also were excluded from team photos taken after the event on school property, according to the lawsuit.

Along with the school district, the lawsuit also names Pressly, the parent of another dancer on the team and a teacher.

Sturdivant is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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