A family has filed a lawsuit against a Sesame Street-themed amusement park, claiming they were the target of racial discrimination.
The Baltimore family’s case revolves around allegations that several fantasy characters ignored a five-year-old black girl during a June event, according to the Associated Press.
The lawsuit comes after a video of a separate incident attracted widespread attention on social media, showing two other young black women being ignored by a costumed character at the park located on the outskirts of Philadelphia in Langhorne.
Amusement park Sesame Place issued a statement apologizing for the incident and said it would expand employee training following the viral video.
The suit seeks class action status and was filed in Philadelphia federal court against SeaWorld Parks, owner of Sesame Place, alleging “pervasive and appalling racial discrimination.”
The legal document states that four park employees, dressed as Sesame Street characters, ignored Quinton Burns and his daughter Kennedi, as well as other black visitors during the June 18 event.
“SeaWorld artists readily engaged with several white clients in a similar situation,” the legal document states.
Staff were dressed as the characters Elmo, Ernie, Telly Monster and Abby Cadabby. The suit alleges that they ignored the family and “all other black guests present”.
The lawsuit also claims that the company knew that the four employees, who are named as defendants in the lawsuit, held racist views, CNN reported.
“SeaWorld had real knowledge that John Does 1-4 had personal beliefs of racial prejudice toward blacks and that John Does 1-4 had a propensity to discriminate against blacks on the basis of their race or color,” the lawsuit, which not indicate the race of the employees, he says.
“We will review the lawsuit filed on behalf of Burns,” Sesame Place told various media outlets in a statement on Wednesday. “We look forward to addressing this claim through the established legal process. We are committed to providing an inclusive, equitable and fun experience for all our guests.”
Burns and his daughter attended a press conference on Wednesday alongside lawyers.
“We stand before you here today simply trying to fight and protect Black children and their fundamental civil rights,” attorney Malcolm Ruff told the media.
Ruff said they “watched with utter disgust when viral videos of these beloved Sesame Street characters were discriminating against these innocent black children and the videos began to flood the internet.”
“She was ignored among a sea of other white kids, who were able to interact, give hugs, high-fives and love from these characters who were supposed to be a source of security, a source of fairness, a source of kindness. ,” he added.
The lawsuit comes not long after park officials issued another apology after the character Rosita was seen in a viral video that appeared to ignore black children.
In response to this earlier incident, he said in a statement to ABC News that “what the two young women experienced, what the family experienced, is unacceptable. It happened in our park, with our team, and we own it. It’s our responsibility to make it better for the kids and the family and be better for every family.”
Park officials added at the time that bias training would be implemented so that staff “can recognize, understand and deliver an inclusive, equitable and fun experience for all of our guests. We have already engaged with nationally recognized experts in this area.”
The lawsuit asks for financial compensation and that the defendants issue a formal apology to black Americans, that they take steps to avoid hiring people with racial biases, and that cultural sensitivity training be mandatory for current employees.
The court case also calls for officials to receive courses “on the history of discrimination against Blacks in America, provided by a nationally acclaimed, mutually agreed-upon expert in the field of African and Black history and culture.”