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Sesame Place staff to undergo diversity training after accusations of discrimination against Black children

A lawsuit filed last month alleges that theme park staff “ignored” a five-year-old Black girl

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Wednesday 10 August 2022 19:07 BST
Related: Family speaks out against Sesame Place incident

Sesame Place announced it will be implementing a new plan to address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion among employees after a series of incidents appeared to show staff discriminating against Black children.

In a viral video filmed by Leslie Mac, who was visiting the Philadelphia-based theme park with her four-year-old daughter and her daughter’s friends last month, a costumed staff member was approached by the two young girls. However, rather than pause to take pictures with the theme park guests, the character instead appeared to wave the children away.

The video prompted an apology from the park, which said at the time: “We sincerely apologise to the family for their experience in our park on Saturday; we know that it’s not okay. We will conduct training for our employees so they better understand, recognise and deliver an inclusive, equitable and entertaining experience to our guests.”

At the time, celebrities and fans shared their criticism of the staff’s behaviour, with singer Kelly Rowland claiming that the park should be “ashamed”. “Those gorgeous girls will never forget that feeling! THEY ARE KIDS!!!!! You should be ASHAMED of yourselves for this pathetic statement!” she wrote.

A federal lawsuit filed by a family against Sesame Place last month also alleged that the theme park allowed staff members to discriminate against Black children.

In a statement on Tuesday, Sesame Place announced that, in light of the accusations, all current and future staff members will undergo anti-bias training.

“Sesame Place today announced a series of initiatives as part of an expansion of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” the press release read. “Initiatives include a comprehensive racial equity assessment, the development and implementation of an anti-bias training and education program, and enhancements to ensure a best-in-class diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) program.”

Sesame Place said all employees will undergo the training, which is “designed to address bias, promote inclusion, prevent discrimination, and ensure all guests and employees feel safe and welcome,” by the end of September 2022, while the theme park notes that the training will be “incorporated into the onboarding of all new employees and will become a regular part of our training and workforce development”.

In the press release, the theme park also said that the training will be developed and overseen by national experts, and community leaders.

“We are pleased to have this team of well-respected leaders joining us. We have already begun engaging with employees, guests, civil rights groups as well as community leaders, and instituted some interim measures at the park while the review proceeds. The actions we are taking will help us deliver on our promise to provide an equitable and inclusive experience for all our guests every day,” said Cathy Valeriano, president of Sesame Place Philadelphia. “We are committed to making sure our guests feel welcome, included and enriched by their visits to our park.”

The amusement park’s announcement comes after Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind Sesame Street, said it was committed to undergoing bias training with the theme park staff shortly after the video of the children’s interaction with a performer dressed in a Rosita costume went viral.

The Independent has contacted Sesame Place for comment.

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