- The Washington Times - Monday, May 11, 2015

The Guggenheim Museum is being accused of discrimination after it reportedly banned a Brooklyn high school for life because a handful of students behaved badly during a class outing.

A group of about 80 students from Science Skills Center High School were kicked out within 20 minutes of arriving at the museum after one student “allegedly spat off the museum’s swirling rotunda lobby and another threw a penny off its winding walkway,” the New York Post reported.

“I thought, if anything, [museum staff] should just tell the teachers to control the children more and let us finish the exhibit, but they didn’t even do that. They just kicked us out,” said student Yosmeris Martinez, 14.

The school was then handed a lifetime ban from the museum, the New York Post reported.

“It was pretty much the first … group of black kids I have ever seen there,” Guggenheim employee Asha Walker, who is black, told the newspaper.

“This is the first time since I have been there that there are a majority of black students … and the first time I am hearing about a school being banned. But it’s not the first time I am hearing about kids being rowdy in the museum or there being a behavior issue in the museum,” she said.

Another Guggenheim staffer, who requested anonymity, told the New York Post: “I think it’s a real shame that the Guggenheim’s automatic reaction was to say no and ban the school, instead of considering that maybe the students haven’t been there before. It’s a pretty dramatic step to me.”

In a statement to The Washington Times, the Guggenheim called the incident “the unfortunate result of a terrible misunderstanding.”

The statement said an unofficial letter was sent in error to the principal of the high school informing her that the school would be prevented from returning to the museum for a period of time while it undergoes a reevaluation process.

“This is not our policy, and the letter was not sanctioned by museum leadership,” the statement said. “We regret the confusion it has caused, and we are disappointed that these events have been twisted to appear racially motivated; these accusations are baseless and offensive.”

The museum said neither the high school nor its students have been banned and that it has reached out to the principal of the school “to let her know that we would welcome her students back to visit the Guggenheim Museum.”

Just last month, Michelle Obama urged cultural institutions to be more welcoming of minority children.

“You see, there are so many kids in this country who look at places like museums and concert halls and other cultural centers, and they think to themselves, ‘Well, that’s not a place for me, for someone who looks like me, for someone who comes from my neighborhood,’ ” she said at the opening of the new Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.

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