POINT PLEASANT BEACH, Ocean County (WABC) -- A group of girls say they were the victims of racial discrimination after being banned from a gift shop in New Jersey.
What started as a carefree field trip to Jenkinson's Aquarium in Point Pleasant Beach suddenly turned into an ugly confrontation for a group of girls when they say one of the aquarium's employees kicked them out of the gift shop.
The management of Jenkinson's now says the employee involved in the incident has been terminated.
For 13-year-old Kianna Williams and several of her friends, it was their first trip ever to the aquarium. They traveled by bus last Friday with more than 60 other young girls in the Princess to Queenz Camp, based in Paterson.
All was well until they say they were singled out and confronted by a woman in the aquarium's gift shop.
"She was angry, she was mad (and) she (was) raising her voice as if we did something, as if we were damaging her store," camper Sajadah Tisder said. "It's just like we weren't doing anything, just looking around."
The girls were told to get a chaperone, and when they came back with a camp counselor, the women persisted they still needed to leave. That's when camp director Attiyya Barrett intervened and recorded a portion of what happened.
"There were other children that were bystanders watching and they didn't have adults with them, so that's when it became a question of race," Barrett said.
"I was shocked and I didn't really say anything because I didn't know what to say," camper Kiera Williams said. "I've never been in a situation like this before."
"It was a lot of little girls crying," camper Jayla Bush said. "We had to explain to them why we couldn't be in there and it was sad for us to have to explain that to like 7-year-olds."
Following the incident, managers at Jenkinson's apologized to Barrett and issued the following statement:
"Discrimination of any kind is not tolerated at Jenkinson's. We strive to provide all of our customers with an enjoyable experience and we clearly missed the mark this time."
Jenkinson's says it fired the employee involved and has issued a statement that read in part:
"This incident does not reflect the core values of the boardwalk. In our 90-year history, Jenkinson's has always been and will continue to be the place where people from all races, religions, ages, genders, and cultures are welcome. We are committed to fostering, cultivating, and preserving our culture of diversity and inclusion. Jenkinson's will also be conducting a diversity training program for its employees in the very near future to avoid this type of occurrence in the future."
Still, many of the girls at Princess to Queenz feel this apology can't undo the harm that's already been done.
"I'm sorry that they had to endure this at a young age, but I believe everything is a teaching experience," Barrett said.
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Paterson girls camp say they were 'racially discriminated' after getting kicked out of gift shop in Point Pleasant Beach