Sesame Place announced it will implement a new plan to address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion among employees after a series of incidents appeared to show employees discriminating against black children.
In a viral video filmed by Leslie Mac, who visited the Philadelphia-based theme park with her four-year-old daughter and her daughter’s friends last month, a costumed employee was approached by the two young girls. But instead of taking photos with the theme park guests, the character appeared to wave the children away.
The video prompted an apology from the park, which said at the time: “We sincerely apologize to the family for their experience at our park on Saturday; we know it’s not okay. We will carry out training for our employees so that they better understand, recognize and deliver an inclusive, fair 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 the park should be “ashamed”. “These gorgeous girls will never forget that feeling! THEY ARE KIDS!!!!! You should be ASHAMED of this pathetic statement!” she wrote.
A federal lawsuit filed by a family against Sesame Place last month also alleged that the theme park allowed employees to discriminate against black children.
In a statement Tuesday, Sesame Place announced that, in light of the allegations, all current and future employees will undergo anti-bias training.
“Sesame Place today announced a number of initiatives as part of an expansion of its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” the press release said. “Initiatives include a comprehensive assessment of racial equity, 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 training will be “integrated into the induction of all new employees and will become a regular part of our workforce training and 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 with us. We have already begun working with employees, guests, civil rights groups as well as community leaders, and have implemented some temporary measures in the park while the review continues. The actions we are taking will help us to 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 visit in our park.”
The theme park’s announcement comes after Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind it Sesame streetsaid it was committed to undergoing bias training with theme park staff shortly after video of children interacting with a performer dressed in a Rosita costume went viral.
The independent has contacted Sesame Place for comment.