Update: Former Montgomery County Swim Club Settles Racial Discrimination Case With Victims for $1.1 Million

Three summers ago, the former Valley Club swimming pool in Huntingdon Valley signed a deal to host 65 children from a Philadelphia day camp so they could spend one day a week frolicking in the pool and playing on the swim club grounds.

The camp, Creative Steps Inc., paid the swim club $1,950 for the summer contract. But it all came apart quickly late that June when some of the children – who were mostly African-American and Hispanic – reported to their chaperones that they overheard verbal racial slurs and other ugly comments from some of the other people at the swim club shortly after they arrived one day.

The family of one of the children filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) on behalf of their child after the incident, according to an earlier MyPhillyLawyer blog post.

Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/paulprescott72

In a 33-page ruling, the PHRC later found that “probable cause exists” to show that the swim club denied the children the use of its facilities because of racial discrimination.

The swim club refunded the $1,950 that the daycare facility paid for the 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 report.

The case eventually ended up in court with many of the families of the youngsters suing the swim club for discrimination.

Now, three years later, a $1.1 million settlement has been announced by the U.S. Department of Justice between the former swim club – which began bankruptcy proceedings and was later sold – and the families of the victims, according to a story in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“We believe the settlement sends a strong message that racial discrimination against children will not be tolerated,” the lawyers for the plaintiffs said in a statement, according to the Inquirer. “Struggling with bad publicity and mounting legal bills, the club filed for bankruptcy that November. The club property was sold for $1.46 million.”

The bankruptcy case is still pending, but once it is closed, the remaining assets will be paid to Creative Steps, the children, and their counselors, the paper reported.

“Our hope is that this case serves as prevention for years to come and a reminder that discrimination is illegal, and has no place in Pennsylvania,” JoAnn Edwards, the commission’s executive director, told the Inquirer..

The announcement of the settlement is good news for the victims, who never should have had to experience the pain and anguish that was bestowed upon them by the swim club in the first place. This case was an outrage in the Philadelphia area and we are happy to see that it is being resolved on behalf of the many victims and their families.

Three years ago in this blog we wrote 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 advice still stands just as true today as it did in 2009.

Racial discrimination, or any other kind of discrimination against a person’s sex, age, religion or sexual preference, is unfair and against the law.

We applaud the PHRC, the Justice Department and the proper settlement of this offensive case.

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