Swim Club Could Pay $50G After Turning Away Black, Hispanic Children

A Philadelphia-area swim club was fined up to $50,000 after a state panel decided it discriminated against black and Hispanic children when it sent a day camp group home, MyFOXPhilly reported.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission handed down its decision late Tuesday against The Valley Club in a case that attracted national attention earlier this year.

The report says a probe found probable cause of racial discrimination in the June 29 incident — when a group of mostly black and Hispanic kids from the Creative Steps day camp went to the suburban club and had their payment refunded without explanation.

The swim club's lawyer blamed the findings on the "media firestorm" that followed the incident.

The commission ordered civil penalties of up to $50,000 against the Valley Club, located in Huntingdon Valley.

The club has maintained there were too many children for the number of lifeguards on duty. They also said several of the kids in the group couldn't swim.

Brian Mildenberg, a lawyer for a black girl who was part of the day camp group, said at a Tuesday night news conference that the report was the result of a thorough fact-finding process.

"They looked at all the e-mails that went back and forth," Mildenberg said.

The messages quoted in the report include one from club board member George Whitehill to the rest of the board that said in part, "Race is an issue since every e-mail of complaint mentioned race."

The girl Mildenberg represents says she heard a member of club ask, "What are all these black kids doing here?" and say, "I am scared they might do something to my child."

The state report also noted that other large groups that came to the swim club did not generate the same reaction.

Club lawyer Joe Tucker said the decision "has nothing to do with the actual facts" and would be appealed.

"The die was cast by the media firestorm. They had no choice but to reach the decision they did," Tucker said.

The summer incident made headlines around the country and led to a U.S. Justice Department review. It also got the attention of actor Tyler Perry, who offered to pay for the children from the day camp to go to Walt Disney World.

Much of the attention focused on an earlier statement by the president of the club's board of directors, John Duesler, voicing concern that so many children would "change the complexion" or atmosphere of the club, which he acknowledged was "a terrible choice of words."

For more on this story, go to MyFOXPhilly.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.