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Attorney General Healey Investigating Racist Incident During MFA School Trip

Attorney General Maura Healey's office is investigating the allegations that a group of children of color were racially profiled and harassed while on a school field trip at the Museum of Fine Arts on May 16.

"Our educational and cultural institutions must be welcoming to everyone — especially to our young people," Jillian Fennimore, a spokeswoman for Healey's office, wrote in an emailed statement on Thursday afternoon. "We take allegations of discrimination seriously and can confirm that our office is investigating this matter."

According to the statement, Healey's office began investigating the incident — reaching out to the school and the museum — as soon as the "allegations became public."

The MFA's Director of Public Relations Karen Frascona wrote in an email on Thursday that the museum "welcomes the opportunity to work with Attorney General Maura Healey in her investigation."

Students from the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy in Dorchester say they were racially profiled during a school trip to the MFA. The students said a visitor called them "[expletive] black kids" when they stood by the entrance of the museum and that another patron referred to one of the students as a stripper. The middle-schoolers and their teachers also said museum security guards profiled them, following them from gallery to gallery while being lax with other white student groups.

After an internal investigation that utilized security footage and dozens of interviews, the MFA revoked the membership of and banned the two visitors whom the students said had insulted them. The museum did not impose consequences on museum guards, saying that it may have looked as if the guards were following the kids but in reality were only going off and on break and overlapping.

MFA officials said guards would receive training to ensure they interacted with guests in a welcoming way. The museum also vowed to increase staff inside the galleries. Some of the children's parents say this course of action is not enough. They believe the MFA is not holding its own accountable.

The AG's announcement comes just a day after the museum announced it hired an outside firm to conduct an external investigation of the incident in an effort to "provide greater objectivity and clarity."

"While both investigations are ongoing, the MFA cannot provide additional information at this time," Frascona wrote in an email Thursday.  "The Museum is committed to becoming stronger through inclusivity and accountability to our communities."

Related:

Maria Garcia Twitter Senior Editor, The ARTery
Maria Garcia is the senior editor of The ARTery, WBUR's Arts and Culture Team.

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