The Massachusetts Attorney General Is Investigating Acts of Discrimination Against a Group of Seventh Graders at MFA Boston

The museum has also hired counsel to conduct a separate investigation.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Massachusetts state attorney general has opened an investigation into an incident at the MFA Boston in which a group of local school children was allegedly harassed and racially profiled during a visit last month.

Earlier this week, three families and a teacher from the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy sent a letter to the attorney general requesting an investigation, according to the Boston Globe. The discrimination allegations were first made by the school group’s teacher, Marvelyne Lamy, on her personal Facebook page in late May.

“Our educational and cultural institutions must be welcoming to everyone—especially to our young people,” a representative from attorney general’s office said in a statement. “We take allegations of discrimination seriously and can confirm that our office is investigating this matter.”

“The MFA welcomes the opportunity to work with attorney general Maura Healey in her investigation,” a representative from the museum tells artnet News.

Seventh-grade English teacher Marvelyne Lamy of the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy. Photo: Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images.

Seventh-grade English teacher Marvelyne Lamy of the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy. Photo: Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images.

In her Facebook post, Lamy said that during a trip to the museum, 30 seventh-graders, all students of color, were followed closely by security while white children from other classes received no such attention. When one child danced to a song in the MFA’s “Gender Bending Fashion” exhibition, a visitor allegedly said it was a “shame that she is not learning” and was “instead stripping.” Later on, another guest allegedly called the students “[expletive] black kids” when trying to pass the group.

After the incident, the MFA issued an open letter apologizing to the teacher and her students. “That is not who we are or want to be,” the letter reads. “Our intention is to set the highest of standards, and we are committed to doing the work that it will take to get there.”

The museum conducted its own internal investigation shortly thereafter, “reviewing extensive video footage, conducting in-depth interviews with staff and visitors, and collaborating with the school,” according to a statement. As a result, the museum identified two visitors responsible for the harassment and banned them from its facilities. It has also retained its own counsel, former state attorney general Scott Harshbarger of the firm Casner & Edwards, to conduct an investigation while the attorney general’s office completes its own.

“While both investigations are ongoing, the MFA cannot provide additional information at this time,” a museum representative said. “The Museum is committed to becoming stronger through inclusivity and accountability to our communities.”


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