• Pennsylvania swim club – was it a safety issue or racial?

    Date: 07.20.09 | by Judge Tom.

    A private swim club in the Philadelphia area, with an open membership policy, agreed to allow children from a local day-care center to swim at their pool. The Creative Steps summer camp paid the club $1950.00 for the weekly swim time.

    65 children, mostly Black and Hispanic, made their first trip to the pool on June 29, 2009.  Some of the kids reported hearing racist remarks about why black kids were there, and concerns about them stealing while at the pool. The Huntingdon Valley Swim Club is predominantly white and some parents reportedly pulled their children out of the pool when the campers arrived.

    Summer camp members

    The Club cancelled the children’s summer membership and returned the fee. The director of the Club explained that concerns over the number of children, their safety and noise factor was the reason for revoking their membership.

    A discrimination lawsuit was filed in federal court and the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission has begun an investigation. In the meantime, the Club has offered to let the children back to the pool once they work out the safety issues.

    Some of the youngsters interviewed by the media expressed surprise and disappointment at hearing the comments directed toward them. 12-year-old Marcus said “I was amazed they would think something like this. We’re just like you, we’re just like your kids. This is kind of sad that people were still thinking like this, when I thought that these days was over.”

    Swim Club Blacks

    Protest at swim club

    Are you surprised to hear about this happening in 2009? Jim Crow laws refer to racial segregation – the concept of ‘separate but equal’ facilities for blacks and whites that existed in the U.S. since the end of the Civil War. They applied to public schools, transportation, restaurants, restrooms and theaters. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 did away with these laws.

    Federal and state laws prohibit discrimination of all sorts based on age, gender, race, religion and sexual orientation. However, a law cannot keep someone from expressing their opinion and sometimes in the presence and to the detriment of children. How would you resolve this case?

    Updates:  The swim club ended up filing for bankruptcy protection and, in January, 2010, a federal civil rights lawsuit was filed against the club.

    tyler-perry

    Tyler Perry's House of Payne

    In response to the swim club’s cancellation of the campers’ membership, actor Tyler Perry [grandma Madea] paid for the kids to fly to Orlando, Florida and spend a few days at Disney World in August.

    Mr. Perry wanted the kids to see that although some people may be misguided, there are others who care about them.

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    2 Comments subscribe to these comments.

    • julie
      Tue, 21 Jul 2009 at 08:32

      per a group of five teen boys, the club’s actions were unacceptable and discriminatory-very sad in this day & age

    • Jessica Klepac
      Mon, 03 Aug 2009 at 02:35

      Thank God for Tyler Perry! Heard him talk about the kids experience this morning on the Gayle King show.

      Judge Tom’s response:
      For those of you who didn’t hear, actor Tyler Perry got so upset with the way these kids were treated, he decided to take all 65 swimmers to Disney World for a few days in August. He said they need to understand that for every bad deed there are many others willing to do the right thing for these kids. Way to go, Madea.

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