If you were wondering how we got to the point to where an entire group of chaperoned white kids from Covington Catholic High School felt bold enough to openly harass a Native American Vietnam veteran in front of everyone, it’s because racism and hatred aren’t just openly tolerated in certain schools—sometimes they’re even encouraged.
Warning: This story is about something vile, but it needs to be told.
Camille Sturdivant is a young, driven black dancer who started dance training when she was 4. If you see her performances, you will agree that she is pretty damn good. She was a senior at Blue Valley Northwest High School in Overland Park, Kansas.
Carley Fine is the studio director for the Perception Dance Company in Lenexa, Kansas. She was not a teacher, was not attending university, and had graduated from Blue Valley NW only two years earlier. This matters, because dance was an elective at Blue Valley NW, and students get grades for dance classes that count towards their GPAs.
Fine was hired because the district superintendent said it was hard to find dance coaches. As a student, Fine had been present at Camille’s freshman tryouts, along with fellow graduating senior Kevin Murakami. Her freshman year was the only year Camille didn’t make the team.
After she arrived, Fine let it be known that she was not going to follow standard practice. First, since she did not participate in tryouts, the girls would have to audition for every performance. In addition, she encouraged the girls on the team to come and pay money at her dance studio for private lessons or to take classes—which sort of defeats the entire purpose of having Fine work as a dance coach at the school. Furthermore, Fine had the students pay a fee to use Perception Dance Company studio instead of practicing at their school.
When Camille auditioned, things got ugly:
According to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed in December by Camille Sturdivant, Fine and Murakami pulled then-16-year-old Camille aside, and Murakami told her she was being removed from the dance because “her skin was too dark, and the audience would look at her and not the other dancers.” She was also told that her “skin color clashed with the costumes.” [Emphasis added.]
As awful as that sounds, what the school allegedly did next is even worse.