Camp leader rejects swim club's offer

July 13, 2009 8:32:34 PM PDT
A lawyer representing a Philadelphia day camp says to accept an offer to return to a suburban swim club, the club's entire board must resign. Attorney Michael Kuldiner represents the day camp, Creative Steps, and the families of majority of the children who swam at the The Valley Club in Huntingdon Valley on June 29.

He says in addition to the board members stepping down, the club should expel those members who used bigoted language that day.

Kuldiner says he expects to file a lawsuit within a week.

Creative Steps director Alethea Wright says several children reported hearing racial comments and parents pulled their children from the pool.

Wright says the children from Creative Steps have been "permanently scarred" by how they were treated.

She says several children reported hearing racial comments. She told reporters that she got a text message Monday from the club's president inviting the children to return but she didn't respond to him.

Valley Club President John Duesler Jr. says the problem wasn't race, but concerns about safety with so many children in the pool. He says the club wants to accomodate the campers by taking other safety measures, such as hiring more lifeguards.

No one answered the telephone at the club Monday and the voicemail box was full.

Meanwhile, a discrimination lawsuit has already been filed against the club.

The lawsuit alleges that The Valley Club discriminated against the children on the basis of race.

The suit, filed in federal court on Friday, demands unspecified damages on behalf of several unnamed children and parents. Two attorneys are seeking class-action status for a group that could number 60 children and 120 parents.

The Creative Steps camp had arranged for 65 mostly black and Hispanic children to swim each Monday afternoon at the gated Huntingdon Valley club, which is on a leafy hillside in a village straddling two overwhelmingly white townships.

But after the group arrived June 29, camp director Alethea Wright said, several children reported hearing racial comments and some swim club members pulled their children out of the pool.

The camp's $1,950 was refunded a few days later.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission is investigating.

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