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Sesame Place Philadelphia announces company review and racial bias training after alleged discrimination 

The changes come after weeks of online backlash and a multimillion-dollar lawsuit. 
/ Source: NBC News

Sesame Place Philadelphia announced a company review and pledged to have all employees complete a mandatory bias training after a now-viral video appeared to show prejudice against two young Black girls last month, prompting waves of criticism and a discrimination lawsuit. 

The SeaWorld-owned theme park announced on Tuesday a series of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. They involve a racial equity assessment and a commitment that all the company’s employees will have received bias training by the end of September. 

The changes will be overseen by several outside experts, including a former member of the U.S. Commission for Civil Rights, the company explained in a press release. Cathy Valeriano, the president of Sesame Place Philadelphia, said that the company has also implemented “some interim measures” while the review is ongoing, which include consulting with civil rights groups and community leaders. 

“The actions we are taking will help us deliver on our promise to provide an equitable and inclusive experience for all our guests every day,” Valeriano said. 

The announcement comes weeks after the family of two young Black girls alleged that the Sesame Street character Rosita ignored their children during a parade at the park in mid-July. NBC News has not verified the family’s allegations. Sesame Place said at the time that Rosita was shaking its head “no” in the video in response to requests for the character to hold their children for photos, which is not permitted. Sesame Place repeatedly apologized to the family for their experience. 

After the allegations made by the family of the two young girls, a Maryland father also filed a federal lawsuit in Pennsylvania against Sesame Place Philadephia’s parent company, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, alleging several characters “intentionally” refused to engage with his child and ignored Black guests. One of the demands in the suit was for the company to implement mandatory cultural sensitivity training and classes about discrimination. The plaintiffs in that suit are seeking $25 million in damages. 

After the first incident, the Congressional Black Caucus called the behavior displayed at the park “abhorrent” and requested a meeting with Valeriano. In a statement on July 23, Rep. Joyce Beatty, a Democrat from Ohio and chair of the CBC, said the park “should be where all children can go to have fun and celebrate.” 

“Sadly, that has not been the case,” she said.

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