The Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) has apologized after a teacher alleged her students were subjected to racist language and treatment during a field trip.
In a Facebook post on Monday, Marvelyne Lamy detailed the trip with her students from the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy in Dorchester to the MFA on May 16.
In the post, Lamy identified her Grade 7 students as “ALL black and brown.”
According to Lamy, during the trip, her students were racially profiled and subjected to racist insults.
Lamy alleges that at the beginning of the tour, a museum staff member told the students that there would be “no food, no drink, and no watermelon.”
“We didn’t know they said this until the end,” she wrote.
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According to Lamy, her students were followed by security guards during the visit.
“Many of our students grew agitated,” Lamy wrote. “At the end, we went through the gender bending exhibit where the security guard followed our every movement. It got so bad that I started gathering our students so we could leave.”
Lamy said that while her students were leaving, other patrons at the museum made racist comments.
“As we were walking out, our students were standing in the doorway of the Africa exhibit. We had them clear out the doorway so people could pass by. This lady walks by and says, ‘Never mind there’s f***ing black kids in the way.’”
Lamy said she told museum staff what had happened and a report was filed.
“The worse part about all of this is seeing the hurt look on my children’s faces as this was their first time experiencing racism first hand,” Lamy wrote. “It’s sad that although our students are well behaved and our teachers are well educated, that we are still seen as less than and as criminals.”
“Last week, a number of students on an organized visit encountered a range of challenging and unacceptable experiences that made them feel unwelcome,” the letter reads. “That is not who we are or want to be. Our intention is to set the highest of standards, and we are committed to doing the work that it will take to get there.
“We deeply regret any interactions that led to this outcome and are committed to being a place where all people trust that they will feel safe and treated with respect. We look forward to ongoing conversation and commit to using this situation as an opportunity to learn and create a culture of unwavering inclusion.”
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On Friday, the museum subsequently released the findings of an internal investigation it had launched into the incident.
According to the museum, the employee who greeted the group recalled telling the students, “no food, no drink and no water bottles” were allowed in the galleries.
MFA said there was no way to “definitively confirm or deny what was said,” but added it would provide additional training for all front-line staff on engaging with incoming school groups about museum policies and guidelines.
However, the institution determined that other museum visitors had made racist comments to the students on two separate occasions.
“We have identified the patrons who made the disparaging remarks and revoked their membership, banning them from the Museum’s grounds,” the statement reads. “We will serve them with a no-trespass cease-and-desist notification.”
And, according to the museum, the galleries and exhibits were patrolled by 13 security guards during the school’s visit who “went on and off break and occasionally overlapped as they moved from one area or another.” The museum said it is “understandable” that due to the movement, the students felt followed.
“That was not our intention,” the statement reads. “It is unacceptable that they felt racially profiled, targeted and harassed.”
The museum says it is taking a number of steps to adapt security procedures including additional training for guards, specifically designed to make sure all people feel “welcome, safe and respected at the museum.”
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The museum says it is also working with outside experts on continued mandatory unconscious bias training, conflict resolution training and sexual harassment training for all staff, and is reviewing all visitor touchpoints to ensure that every visitor’s experience is “positive and welcoming.”
“These young people left the Museum feeling disrespected, harassed and targeted because of the color of their skin, and that is unacceptable,” Matthew Teitelbaum, Ann and Graham Gund Director said in a statement. “This is a fundamental problem that we will address as an institution, both with immediate steps and long-term commitments. I am deeply saddened that we’ve taken something away from these students that they will never get back.”
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