The Hyatt called security on a gathering of National Association of School Psychologists members. Now the group wants its money back.
The group was honoring Dr. Celeste Malone, the organization’s first Black female president in 25 years, during the NASP’s 55th convention. The Hyatt Regency said it was “taking steps with hotel and corporate leadership to address this matter.”
This story was updated Feb. 10 with a response from the Hyatt Regency.
A group of members from the National Association of School Psychologists has asked the Hyatt Regency Denver At Colorado Convention Center to reimburse them for the cost of a suite used Wednesday evening, after a perceived racist intrusion where hotel security broke up a gathering held by the association’s president.
They have also asked for the hotel to apologize and make a donation to the Black School Psychologists Network, a subgroup of the association.
“The Black School Psychologist Network was created for these moments, where we can have celebrations and joy without being discriminated against,” said Byron McClure, a school psychologist who was interviewed about the incident on Thursday.
“And so if they are truly sorry,” he said, “simply fulfilling these three things is a way to provide authentic healing.”
According to attendees’ posts on Twitter, an email to CPR and conversations with several association members, the National Association of School Psychologists was holding its 55th convention at which the organization’s first Black female president in 25 years, Dr. Celeste Malone, was recognized before about 5,600 people.
On Wednesday evening, Malone hosted fellow scholars and doctoral students in her suite. To set up some refreshments for guests, she contacted the front desk and requested a plate upon which cookies could be served.
Instead of a plate, the hotel sent security to “assess the situation.” They told three tenured faculty members of color from different parts of the country in the room to “not get too rowdy,” according to attendees.
Then, at about 9:15, hotel security arrived and cleared the room, citing noise complaints. Attendees say they were asked to show ID.
“I’d arrived at the party about 20 minutes prior and heard no noise in the hallway until I approached the door,” said attendee Tara Raines, a school psychologist in Las Vegas.
She said in a telephone interview Thursday that Hyatt noise complaint protocol is to issue two warnings before disbanding events, which she says they did not do.
In an email Raines said the hotel handled white guests differently.
“I attended a party Tuesday evening in a suite on a lower floor with loud music and many more people. This party was not interrupted. It was predominately white,” Raines said. “As this is one of a very few gatherings of people of color, this surveillance feeling is overwhelmingly racially motivated.”
Members of the National Association of School Psychologists took their complaints to Twitter, creating the hashtag #Hyattsowhite. NASP also tweeted a statement.
“NASP wants to acknowledge publicly that a totally unacceptable and harmful incident occurred last night in the Hyatt hotel that directly affected President Celeste Malone, her friends, colleagues, and family, and by extension the Black community.”
Late Friday afternoon, Greg Leonard, general manager of the Hyatt released the following statement, via the Hyatt’s corporate office in Chicago in response to the demands of the group:
“Hyatt’s purpose is to care for people so they can be their best, and we are deeply sorry for the experience Dr. Celeste Malone and her guests had at Hyatt Regency Denver on Wednesday night, February 8. Our colleagues’ actions did not make Dr. Malone and her guests feel welcome.
Dr. Malone was celebrating an exceptional milestone: being selected as the first Black, female president of the National Association of School Psychologists, and we apologize for taking away from this special occasion with how we handled the noise complaints. We expect all colleagues to show the utmost empathy, inclusion and respect to all guests, and it’s clear from this incident that we have work to do.
We are taking steps with hotel and corporate leadership to address this matter further and take meaningful, quick action to learn from this experience. We also plan to implement further values and empathy training for all colleagues in an effort to prevent something like this from happening again.”
Nothing in the statement addressed the group’s requests for a donation or a refund for the cost of the suite in which the event occurred.
“We appreciate the apology, but they need to put their money where their mouth is,” McClure said Friday. “Empathy is great, but actually putting financial support behind it is better.”
The association’s president, Malone, also tweeted, “I greatly appreciate how quickly the National Association of School Psychologists has responded to this situation and is standing in solidarity with me and the Black school psych community. My goal for NASP 2023 was to create a space for diversity, inclusion, and joy.
“The actions of the Hyatt derailed that.”