HUNTINGDON VALLEY, Pennsylvania – State officials will investigate accusations of racial discrimination against a suburban Philadelphia swim club that allegedly reacted to a visiting group of minority children by asking them not to return.
The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission will immediately open an investigation into the actions of The Valley Club in the leafy suburb of Huntingdon Valley, chairman Stephen A. Glassman said.
"The rule of law in Pennsylvania is equal opportunity for all, regardless of race," Glassman said Thursday in a written statement released by his office.
"Allegedly, this group was denied the use of a pool based on their race," Glassman said. "If the allegations prove to be true, this is illegal discrimination in Pennsylvania."
The club maintains that accusations of racial discrimination are false and claims overcrowding from more than one outside camp was the problem.
The Creative Steps camp in northeast Philadelphia had contracted for the 65 children at the day camp to go each Monday afternoon to The Valley Club in Huntingdon Valley, camp director Alethea Wright said Thursday. But shortly after they arrived June 29, she said, some black and Hispanic children reported hearing racial comments.
"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 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 some parents are "weighing their options" on legal action.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People requested the Human Relations Commission's investigation.