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Sesame Place employees face re-education program after accusations of racism

Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Sesame Place is now enrolling all of its employees in anti-bias programs in light of both a recent lawsuit filed against the park alleging racial discrimination and a similar accusation levied by one mother who claims a costumed performed snubbed her child.

Sesame Place is a SeaWorld Entertainment theme park based on the children's show "Sesame Street," with locations in Philadelphia and San Diego. On August 9, the Philadelphia park announced "a series of initiatives as part of an expansion of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion." Among the initiatives is a "racial equity assessment" and "the development and implementation of an anti-bias training and education program."

By the end of September, the park will require all employees to participate in an education program that will allegedly "address bias, promote inclusion, prevent discriminations" and more.

The programs will be overseen by a handful of so-called experts including Debo P. Adegbile, the chair of Anti-Discrimination Practice at WilmerHale LLP (nominated to run the U.S. Department of Justice's Division of Civil Rights by former President Barack Obama, but not confirmed), and the former head of the Louisville Urban League, Sadiqa Reynolds (who called everyone who voted for former President Donald Trump "racist").

Fox 29 indicated that these initiatives are largely in response to a $25 million lawsuit brought against the park's parent company SeaWorld by a Maryland family on July 24.

The lawsuit claims that Quinton Burns' daughter Kennedi was discriminated against during a Father's Day meet and greet. Malcom Ruff, an attorney for the family, invited other individuals with similar grievances to come forward.

This lawsuit comes weeks after a woman named Jodi Brown alleged on Instagram that a costumed park employee withheld a sign of affection from her daughter and her niece on the basis of the girls' race.

Brown posted a video on Instagram on July 16 in which a Sesame Place employee dressed up as the Sesame Street character "Rosita" appears to snub two little girls. Brown wrote "This had me hot ... THIS DISGUSTING person blatantly told our kids NO then proceeded to hug the little white girl next to us!"

The park responded with a release noting that the "performer portraying the Rosita character has confirmed that the 'no' hand gesture seen several times in the video was not directed to any specific person, rather it was a response to multiple requests from someone in the crowd who asked Rosita to hold their child for a photo which is not permitted."

The Rosita performer was, according to Sesame Place, "devastated about the misunderstanding."

Brown's attorney B'Ivory LaMarr said the family wants the performer fired.

In addition to offering the family three apologies for the employee's adherence to its rules, the park is said to have invited Brown and her family to a special meet and greet.

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