This AP story, although less one sided than the local NBC Philadelphia story from yesterday, still looks bad for The Valley Club in Huntington Valley, and now the PA Human Relations Commission is investigating. If allegations that the group of black children from the Creative Steps Camp were denied the use of the pool based on their race are true, that would be illegal discrimination.
The incident occurred on June 29, when the Creative Steps camp in northeast Philadelphia, which had contracted for 65 children to go to the Valley Club each Monday afternoon, reportedly heard racial comments, and saw parents taking their kids out of the pool after they had arrived.
Camp director Alethea Wright said:
“A couple of the children ran down saying, ‘Miss Wright, Miss Wright, they’re up there saying, “What are those black kids doing here?”‘” she said.
The gated club is on a leafy hillside in a village that straddles two townships with overwhelmingly white populations. It says it has a diverse, multiethnic membership.
Wright said she went to talk to a group of members at the top of the hill and heard one woman say she would see to it that the group, made of up of children in kindergarten through seventh grade, did not return.
“Some of the members began pulling their children out of the pool and were standing around with their arms folded,” Wright said. “Only three members left their children in the pool with us.”
Several days later, the club refunded the camp’s $1,950 without explanation, said Wright, who added that parents are “weighing their options” on legal action
Sounds to me like they would have a pretty good case.
The Valley Club President says race was not a factor in their decision to turn the kids away:
Club president John Duesler told Philadelphia television station WTXF that several club members complained because the children “fundamentally changed the atmosphere” at the pool but that the complaints didn’t involve race.
In a statement released on its Web site Thursday afternoon, the club called the allegations of racial discrimination “completely untrue” and claimed overcrowding from more than one outside camp was the problem.
“We had originally agreed to invite the camps to use our facility, knowing full well that the children from the camps were from multiethnic backgrounds,” it said. “Unfortunately, we quickly learned that we underestimated the capacity of our facilities and realized that we could not accommodate the number of children from these camps.”
The club said it “deplores discrimination.”
“Whatever comments may or may not have been made by an individual member is an opinion not shared by The Valley Club Board,” it said.
How do you underestimate the capacity of your facilities so badly, that you have to turn away 65 kids?
As for the kids’ behavior at the pool…which I posited yesterday might have been a factor:
Amy Goldman said she’s been a member of the club for two years. She said the pool wasn’t particularly crowded and the children from Creative Steps were “well behaved and respectful.”
“I don’t believe everyone here has racist thoughts, but what was said was insulting and offensive,” said Lewis, who’s black.
Wright rejected the overcrowding explanation, saying the club covers 10 acres with a “nice-sized” pool and a separate pool for younger children. The board, she said, knew that her group included 65 children, and none of them had misbehaved.
“We were not welcome, once the members saw who we were,” she said.
The Valley Swim Club owes those kids an apology, and a free pass for the rest of the summer, but the Creative Steps Camp has found another place for the kids. They no longer want to swim at the Valley Club, anyway. Who can blame them after this disgraceful episode?
Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
Donald Douglas has more at American Power with video.