A field trip to the Chesterfield Mall for students with special needs was disrupted Thursday when teachers say an employee at the Bath and Body Works refused to allow their group to enter the store.
Seventeen students from Fort Zumwalt North High School went on the trip to practice life skills, and were in small groups with staff to find stores and products in a scavenger hunt activity.
They were welcomed at other stores in the mall, but a worker stopped the groups before they walked into Bath and Body Works, saying they could not come in, Principal Joe Sutton said. The denial prompted some of the students to ask why they weren’t allowed to get things at the store.
The employee apparently assumed the group wouldn’t be buying anything and was concerned that if they walked past the sensor that tracks the number of people in the store each day, it would hurt their sales percentage.
The teachers and staff members on the trip were extremely frustrated and disappointed, and spoke with the mall manager as well as sharing the story on social media Thursday evening.
The trip turned out to be more than a life skills and social skills lesson, they were exposed to discrimination, one staff member posted on Facebook.
“In this day and age, it is downright disgusting that anyone with special needs would be treated in such manner,” special education teacher Casey Brown wrote on Facebook on Thursday.
Since then, Brown has received an email with an apology from the regional manager, who said they are addressing the problem.
Although some had initially called for a boycott of the store and Brown was unhappy with that particular employee, she said Friday she’s willing to give them another chance. After a conversation with the manager, she believes store officials are taking appropriate measures to train their employees so that all shoppers have a better experience.
“Providing our customers with an exceptional shopping experience is of utmost importance at Bath and Body Works,” according to a statement from L Brands, parent company of Bath and Body Works. “We very much regret this misunderstanding and have personally spoken with the teacher to offer our most sincere apology and welcome her and her students in our stores at any time.”
This is the not first time a Bath and Body Works store has been criticized for such an incident. In March, the company also apologized when an employee in Alabama asked another group of special education students to leave Bath and Body Works over similar foot traffic-to-sales concerns.