Prestigious Boston art museum bans 2 of its members for 'racist comments' to a visiting school group

Teacher Marvelyne Lamy said security guards at the Museum of Fine Arts followed the 7th-graders and a visitor commented about 'stripping' to one student dancing.
Museum Of Fine Arts, Boston
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.Pat Greenhouse / Boston Globe via Getty Images

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By Minyvonne Burke

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston said it revoked memberships from two visitors and banned them from the museum's grounds after a teacher said her students were racially profiled during a recent class trip.

Marvelyne Lamy, a teacher at Helen Y Davis Leadership Academy in Dorchester, said in a lengthy Facebook post last week that museum patrons and a tour guide made racist comments toward a group of 30 or so more seventh-graders she took to the museum.

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According to Lamy, a tour guide told the children, "no food, no drink, and no watermelon" after they entered the building. A female student said a visitor told her, "It’s a shame that she is not learning and instead stripping," as the child danced to music playing in the exhibit, Lamy wrote.

The museum said in a May 24 message on its website that it looked into the complaints and found two instances of two of its patrons making "racist comments" to students.

"We have identified the patrons who made the disparaging remarks and revoked their memberships, banning them from the Museum's grounds," the museum stated. "We will serve them with a no-trespass cease-and-desist notification."

Lamy also said that the group was told that they could not touch any of the artifacts, although white students also on field trips were allowed to touch the display. She also claimed that security guards followed her and her students as they walked through the museum.

"These young people left the Museum feeling disrespected, harassed and targeted because of the color of their skin, and that is unacceptable," Matthew Teitelbaum, a director at the museum, said in a statement on the museum's website. "This is a fundamental problem that we will address as an institution, both with immediate steps and long-term commitments."

The art museum said in addition to banning the two guests, all front-line staff would receive additional training on "how to engage with incoming school groups about policies and guidelines."

It is also working with outside experts "on continued mandatory unconscious bias training, conflict resolution training, and sexual harassment training for all staff," the museum said.