BOSTON (WCVB/CNN) – Two people have been banned from the Museum of Fine Arts after students on a recent field trip reported racist encounters at the museum, officials said. Museum leaders said they are also making several changes to their policies.
Teachers brought students from Davis Leadership Academy to the museum for a field trip last week. They said some students left in tears.
Museum officials said they investigated four separate racist incidents that were reported during the field trip. That included reviewing the security footage of the three-hour visit, they said.
“These young people left the Museum feeling disrespected, harassed and targeted because of the color of their skin, and that is unacceptable,” Matthew Teitelbaum said in a statement provided by the museum. “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.”
Museum officials said they identified two visitors who made racist comments to the students. Those individuals had their memberships revoked and were banned from visiting the museum grounds.
Next, the museum investigated an allegation from a teacher who said an employee greeted the students with a slur.
“It was when we got outside that the kids said that the lady said, ‘No food, no drink, no watermelon,’” said teacher Marvelyne Lamy.
“The employee who greeted the group recalled relaying as part of standard operating procedures that ‘no food, no drink and no water bottles’ were allowed in the galleries,” the museum said. “There is no way to definitively confirm or deny what was said or heard in the galleries. Regardless, the MFA is committed to providing additional training for all frontline staff on how to engage with incoming school groups about policies and guidelines.”
Lastly, the museum responded to the teachers’ complaint that a security guard followed the students into the museum. Officials said the class actually visited spaces patrolled by 13 separate security guards.
“Based on surveillance footage, it is understandable that, because of this movement, the students felt followed,” officials wrote. “That was not our intention. It is unacceptable that they felt racially profiled, targeted and harassed. In response, the MFA is taking a number of steps to adapt security procedures—specifically designed to make sure that all people feel welcome, safe and respected at the Museum.”
Museum leaders have also requested the opportunity to meet with students at the school next week.