So am I getting this right? Everyone needs to let the high schoolers rampage through the museum or else they’ll scream racism? If we want everyone to be treated equally, then we should apply the rules set forth by the museum equally. Isn’t it more racist to expect and accept bad behavior from minorities attending a museum? This could be a teaching moment for all involved but pointing the finger at the museum and screaming racism is so much easier. Does this sound familiar to anyone out there…Baltimore?
The Upper East Side museum banned a Brooklyn high school for life after its students were deemed too rowdy on a recent visit — a move that some call discipline and others discrimination.
A group of about 80 kids from Downtown Brooklyn’s Science Skills Center HS were kicked out after just 20 minutes after a student allegedly spat off the museum’s swirling rotunda lobby and another threw a penny off its winding walkway. The coin was rumored to have hit a security guard.
It was only a handful of troublemakers, but the whole group of ninth- and 10-graders got the boot, with the museum forcing them to wait outside for an hour for their bus to arrive.
Many never got to glimpse the gallery’s Picassos, van Goghs and Monets or even finish checking out the main display by Japanese artist On Kawara.
“I thought, if anything, they [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, from East New York.
Shortly afterward, the school was told it was not welcome back.
Just last week, First Lady Michelle Obama pleaded for art institutions to be more welcoming of kids from all backgrounds.
“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, speaking at the opening of the new Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District.
Guggenheim rules state that people should speak quietly, not run and not disturb other visitors. However, gallery visitors complained about the students’ obnoxious behavior, with one angrily requesting a refund because of the troublesome teens.
Some workers at the Guggenheim suggested the ban may have been a knee-jerk reaction to racist stereotypes.
“It was pretty much the first . . . group of black kids I have ever seen there,” said Asha Walker, who has spent two years working at the Guggenheim distributing audio guides.
‘IT’S UNFAIR, BECAUSE CHILDREN ARE GOING TO BE CHILDREN. SO JUST TELL US THAT WE’RE WRONG RATHER THAN HOLDING US BACK FROM GOING.’
– Yosmeris Martinez, student
Walker, who is black and from Bedford-Stuyvesant, said that she didn’t see any spitting or throwing, but that the boisterous teens were yelling at one another across the rotunda, with very little supervision from teachers.
“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,” said Walker.
Another Guggenheim staffer, who requested anonymity, said: “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.”
The Guggenheim declined to comment on the ban.