POINT PLEASANT BEACH — Jenkinson's Boardwalk says it has suspended a gift shop worker after a camp leader posted a video of the worker saying her girls were "not welcome" in the store -- an incident the camp leader alleges was racially motivated.

"Discrimination of any kind is not tolerated at Jenkinson’s," the boardwalk's marketing manager said in a statement sent to New Jersey 101.5. "We strive to provide all of our customers with an enjoyable experience and we clearly missed the mark this time.

"We sincerely apologize to the girls from the camp group for the way they felt upon leaving. We have been in contact with the group leader and will continue to work with her to make amends. The employee involved in the incident has been suspended while we conduct an investigation. Any necessary further action will be determined after said investigation."

The move comes after the leader of a Paterson mentoring program said seven of her summer camp members made their way into the Jenkinson's Aquarium gift shop ahead of the rest of their group -- about 40 girls aged 6 to 14, and 10 adult chaperones -- only to be told they could not stay there. The seven initially in the shop were ages 6 to 14, Attiyya Barrett, organizer of the Princess to Queenz mentoring program, told New Jersey 101.5

Barrett said a woman only identified to her as "Linda" first told the girls they couldn't come in without a chaperone. The group returned to the aquarium and got a chaperone — a 32-year-old woman, Barrett said. But they were told again they weren't welcome, she said.

Barrett said she'd been inside the aquarium when she heard the commotion, and confronted Linda when she was told what had happened. She said she saw another employee take out a phone to video the incident, so she took hers out as well.

Barrett's video focuses on Linda, whom she identifies in a Facebook post as "the racist lady." Story continues after video.

"She doesn't want the children to shop in her store because they have to have be with a chaperone. They go get the chaperone and then she excludes all of our girls because she doesn't want them there. What was the reason why again," Barrett says in the video.

"Because they didn't have a chaperone," Linda responds.

"No! And when they got the chaperone what was your reason?" Barrett says

"I didn't think she was a chaperone," Linda says,

"And when she was explained why what did you say?" Barrett says. As Linda begins to answer, Barrett talks over her: "What did you just say?"

"They're not welcome in here," the cashier said.

"They're not welcome," Barrett repeats as the video ends.

She said though it wasn't captured on the video, Linda told her "You guys like to pull your phones out."

Barrett described Linda as the manager of the gift shop, but the statement from Jenkinson's did not address the woman's position.

Barrett said after the video was recorded, she collected the girls from her camp and they left the gift shop. She said a Jenkinson's manager and security met her right after, and apologized.

Barrett told New Jersey 101.5 she didn't assume at first the incident was racially motivated.

"There's a lot of stuff in there that's delicate, and she may not have wanted kids without a chaperone," Barrett said. "But when they came back with a chaperone, and her words were 'you are not welcome here,' that's what made it racially motivated in my mind."

Jenkinson’s Aquarium issued its own statement, separate from that of the boardwalk management, later Sunday. It said it was "devastated and saddened by the events that occurred in the gift shop located next door to the aquarium on Friday."

"Jenkinson’s Aquarium is committed to fostering, cultivating, and preserving a culture of diversity and inclusion. We represent a variety of races, religions, ages, genders, and cultures," the aquarium wrote.

It said the gift shop is under separate management from the aquarium.

 

— Dan Alexander contributed to this report

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