Civil Rights

Pa. Pool That Allegedly Banned Black and Latino Children Settles DOJ Suit

A Pennsylvania swim club that in 2009 allegedly turned a group of predominantly black children away from the pool settled a U.S. Justice Department discrimination case Thursday.

The 73 claimants will share are much as $1.1 million, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The Valley Swim Club, which has since closed and sought bankruptcy protection, sold the property for $1.46 million in November. The settlement is pending approval by a bankruptcy judge, and the agreement holds that once the administration of the estate and bankrupty case is closed, including payment of costs and fees, the remaining assets will be paid to Creative Steps’ campers and counselors.

According to the Justice Department, 56 children from Creative Steps, a Philadelphia summer camp, visited the Huntingdon Valley pool in June 2009. Some reported that they heard members asking why black children were there that day. Ultimately the Valley Club refunded the camp’s $1,950 membership fee, and the club’s president and board of directors adopted a policy to ban all summer camps from using the pool. The Justice Department alleges that the policy was racially motivated.

“Denying African-American children entry to a swimming pool because of the color of their skin is a deplorable violation of this nation’s civil rights laws,” Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the agency’s civil rights division, says about the complaint. “It is illegal and inexcusable to discriminate against patrons by barring them from a place of public accommodation on the basis of race or color.”

The settlement also sets aside $65,000 for a leadership council, comprised of claimants and former Valley Club members. The children and their families will have a leadership role, planning swimming, educational and recreational opportunities for the community.

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