A field trip to Enid’s Leonardo’s Children’s Museum is causing controversy.
Several kids claim that a woman who works at the museum told them they couldn’t go down a slide because they’re black.
75 kids from Tulsa’s Greenwood Cultural Center loaded up on a bus and visited the museum Friday.
Now, parents wish those kids never went.
“There was three of us. When we [were] walking and about to go on the slide, the lady said only white kids can stand on the slide,” said 7-year-old Mechiah Matthew.
Mechiah’s mom, Tonnetta Chatmon-Matthew, couldn’t believe what she was hearing when her kids returned from the trip.
“I was just a little heart broken for him,” she said. “In my heart, I believe that it happened. Kids this age, that’s just not something that they’re making up.”
Leonardo’s released a statement saying, in part, “The young woman on the museum staff who was identified by one child has been with us for almost a year. She has all positive evaluations and comments from visitors during that time and said she did not make such comments.”
Greenwood Cultural Center’s executive director, Frances Jordan-Rakestraw, says the museum at first complained by e-mail that they didn’t pay and the kids weren’t well supervised.
“I said they weren’t there but an hour or so. She said we have a short visit fee of $450. I said, ‘ma’am this is not about money for us, it’s about our children, I’ll send a check,’” Jordan-Rakestraw said.
But this morning, Leonardo’s offered to waive the fee and welcome the kids back for free.
Jordan-Rakestraw says, “we will not be taking our children back there.”
Mechiah’s mom says, “I really hope that the museum takes that seriously as a representation of them and really takes action.”
The statement from Leonardo’s also says they’re looking over video recordings to see if they can tell what was said. Based on the results of their investigation, they will determine what employee action is needed.
The full statement from the children’s museum reads:
“On Friday, June 15, we welcomed children, staff and volunteers from the Greenwood Cultural Center on a summer field trip to our museum. After a short visit it was determined that the group did not have the required 5:1 ratio of children to adults, and the group decided to leave. Before they left, it was brought to my attention that a couple of the children believed they were told they could not play on a slide exhibit because of their skin color.
“We immediately asked the Greenwood center’s field trip supervisor to help us ask the children to identify the museum staff member who allegedly made the comment. The young woman on the museum staff who was identified by one child has been with us for almost a year. She has all positive evaluations and comments from visitors during that time and said she did not make such comments.
“We are reviewing videotapes to see if from a visual record we can tell what was said. Based on the result of our investigation we will determine what employee action is needed.
“We have reached out to the cultural center because we are sorry they did not have the enriching and inspiring learning experiences we want for all children and adults at our museum. We take this matter very seriously."