Blue Valley says action taken with the firing of Fine in answer to lawsuit

Blue Valley Unified School District and principal Amy Pressly file response after 2018 graduate Camille Sturdivant filed a civil lawsuit, alleging her rights were violated during her time as a Dazzler.


Ellen Bruce

Blue Valley Unified School District and principal Amy Pressly filed their response to 2018 BVNW graduate Camille Sturdivant’s civil rights lawsuit.

Anna Cowden, Editor-in-chief

Following 2018 graduate Camille Sturdivant’s civil lawsuit filed against the Blue Valley Unified School District, principal Amy Pressly, former Dazzler coach Carley Fine and district elementary school teacher and Dazzler mother Katie Porter, the district and Pressly filed their answer to the suit Thursday.

The response denies several of the suit’s allegations, including that Pressly and the district were informed of Sturdivant’s claim of being excluded in a contemporary dance due to her race.

The suit alleges in July, 2017 choreographer and 2014 BVNW graduate Kevin Murakami told Sturdivant she was excluded from a contemporary dance because “her skin was too dark and the audience would look at her and not the other dancers,” and “her skin color clashed with the color of the costumes.”

Sturdivant’s parents, Mike and Melodie, met with Pressly to complain about Sturdivant’s exclusion from the dance in Sept. 2017, the lawsuit states. However, the district and Pressly claim they were not notified of Murakami’s alleged comments until almost one year later.

In a written statement, Murakami called the accusations “untrue” and “extremely damaging.”

“I never said Camille Sturdivant’s skin was too dark,” Murakami said in the statement. “I never joked that she was too dark. I never even referenced the color of her skin. This is made up, and it’s absolute nonsense. And this is what made up the headlines that flashed around the world in recent days.”

The complaint alleges the Sturdivants met with Pressly in September, 2017 to discuss Sturdivant’s exclusion from the dance due to her skin color. Pressly informed the parents Fine could choose whoever she wanted for the dance, the complaint states.

The district and Pressly deny that the Sturdivants mentioned their daughter’s exclusion from the dance due to the color of her skin. The district and Pressly’s response states the Sturdivants’ “complaints focused on Fine’s decision to require all members of the Dazzlers to audition for individual dance performances that did not require the full dance team.” Thus Pressly told the family the coach could choose whoever she wanted for the dance. 

While Sturdivant was assisting Fine with the dance team May 1, 2018, the lawsuit alleges Fine gave Sturdivant her phone to play the music for the team. The text messages discuss how Sturdivant had recently made the University of Missouri’s dance team, Golden Girls.

Here is the text conversation between Murakami and Fine, according to the lawsuit and response:

Murakami: “I can’t believe Maggie didn’t make it again. I’m heart broken”

Fine: “AND CAMILLE (Sturdivant) MADE MENS. I can’t talk about it.”

Murakami: “THAT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. I’m so mad.”

Fine: “It actually makes my stomach hurt.

Murakami: haha (emoji)

Fine: “Bc she’s f***ing (asterisks inserted by BVNWnews) black. I hate that”

Murakami: “me too”

Fine’s employment was terminated May 2, the day after Pressly was shown the text messages by Sturdivant’s parents, according to the district’s response.

Fine said in a written statement she is “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,” Fine said in the statement.

A team banquet had been scheduled for May 8, 2018, the lawsuit says. The lawsuit states Pressly informed the Sturdivants the banquet had been canceled. While the banquet had been canceled, the lawsuit alleges all the dancers and their parents, except the Sturdivants, attended a dinner on the Plaza. Because Dazzler mother and Cottonwood Point Elementary School teacher Katie Porter attended, the lawsuit claims the dinner was a school-sanctioned event.

The district and Pressly claim Porter was not acting in the role of a district teacher at the dinner, therefore the dinner was not a school-sanctioned event. The district and Pressly state that if Porter ‘“participated in excluding Sturdivant,’” then she was acting in the capacity of a mother, not a third grade teacher with “no responsibility for the Dazzlers.”

The suit alleges the district hired Fine as a teacher even though Fine has no post-high school education and no teaching certifications nor training.

The lawsuit claims Fine “had no previous training on grading standards or expectations and graded her students based purely on random and/or biased grading criteria.”

Fine was not hired as a teacher, the district says, nor was she given any any responsibility for assigning grades. The school assigned a guidance counselor to be the teacher of record for the dance team class during the year Fine was the head coach, according to a member of the dance team at the time.

BVNWnews will be updating as we gather more information