Sesame Place in Pennsylvania announces diversity and inclusion training after viral video sparks backlash

Sesame Place plans to take initiatives to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace following multiple allegations of racial discrimination and a lawsuit.

According to a statement sent to WHYY News, Sesame Place intends to conduct a racial equity assessment to examine policies, processes and practices that “impact customers, employees, suppliers and the community. to identify opportunities for improvement. Engagement with key stakeholders will be included in the assessment.

By the end of September, employees will participate in training focusing on methods to combat prejudice, promote inclusion and prevent discrimination. Training will eventually be part of the onboarding process for new employees.

These initiatives are overseen and developed by national experts involved in civil rights and diversity, equity, and inclusion, including Debo P. Adegbile, chair of anti-discrimination practice at WilmerHale LLP and commissioner of the U.S. civil rights, Joseph West, the current co-chair of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and head of diversity, equity and inclusion at DuaneMorris, and Sadiqa Reynolds, longtime leader of the Louisville Urban League and new CEO of Perception Institute.

“We are thrilled to have this team of highly respected leaders join us,” Sesame Place Philadelphia president Cathy Valeriano said in a statement. “We have already begun to engage with employees, guests, civil rights groups as well as community leaders, and have put in place interim measures at the park while the review continues. The actions we take will help us deliver on our promise to provide a fair and inclusive experience for all of our customers every day. We are committed to making our guests feel welcome, included and enriched by their visits to our park.

In July, multiple allegations of racial discrimination were brought against Sesame Place. A video posted to Instagram shows Rosita’s character refusing to interact with two black children at the Bucks County amusement park. The post’s caption explained that the character hugged a white child just before walking past the black children. Several videos illustrating similar incidents involving Rosita and other Sesame Street characters have also been posted online.

Later that month, Maryland attorneys filed a discrimination lawsuit against Sesame Place over another allegation involving costumed employees not interacting with black visitors.

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