Swimming pool discrimination case leaves much to ponder
By Dean I Weitzman, Esq. on October 14th, 2009
It was supposed to be a summer of swimming and fun for a group of 56 African-American and Hispanic children from a Northeast Philadelphia daycare center who were to head regularly to a private swim club in the Montgomery County suburbs to beat the heat.
Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/paulprescott72
Instead, their first visit turned ugly on June 29 when some of the children reported to their chaperones that they overheard verbal racial slurs and ugly comments from some of the other people at the swim club that day. What happened is still being investigated for possible lawsuits by some of the families, but recently the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ruled that the campers were indeed victims of racial discrimination at the Valley Club in Huntingdon Valley, according to a story in The Philadelphia Inquirer. One family filed a complaint with the agency on behalf of their child after the incident. The swim club refunded the $1,950 that the daycare facility paid for what was to be a once-a-week summer contract and told the day care operators that the children couldn’t come back for safety reasons because there were too many kids using the pool at one time. The swim club also said the day care group could not return because their presence was causing “financial concerns from members requesting the return of their membership fees” due to the attendance of the children, according to the Human Relations Commission’s report.
In its 33-page ruling, the Human Relations Commission found that “probable cause exists” to show that the swim club denied the children the use of its facilities because of racial discrimination. The report noted that the swim club had no African-American members this year or last year. Also, the report stated, the swim club “made a concerted effort to expand the geographic range of its membership by engaging in a marketing campaign” this year but that those efforts “were mainly directed at areas with overwhelmingly Caucasian populations.” The club failed to “direct such marketing efforts at areas with significant African-American populations,” the report said. In a nutshell this club engaged in a concerted practice of racial discrimination. As a result, they have hurt many, including 56 innocent children. And that’s no laughing matter. Now it’s time to right their wrongs.
The swim club was ordered by the agency to pay a $50,000 civil penalty for discrimination to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, as well as other damages to the family that filed the complaint. The case will likely be appealed, and could even be expanded to the other children who were affected.
But beyond that, the message of this case is crystal clear — racial discrimination is against the law and if you feel you are being discriminated against, then it’s time to get legal advice from a lawyer to protect your rights.
No one should be discriminated against by anyone because of the color of their skin.
That’s human decency and that’s the law.