I think many here remember the story of Valley Swim Club, in the Philadelphia suburbs. Having contracted with a local summer program to let its campers use the pool one day a week in 2009, it rescinded the contract after the Black and Hispanic kids' first visit. As one camper recounted, "I heard a white lady say, 'What are all these black kids doing here? They might do something to my child,'" and matters were not enhanced when the club's president, John Duesler, uttered one of the worst lines in public relations history:
There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club.There were protests, of course. Tyler Perry, god bless him, took all 65 kids to Walt Disney World. The club, facing bankruptcy from all the lawsuits, was sold at auction the following May to a nearby synagogue for $1.46M. And today, your United States Department of Justice has announced:
The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement agreement with Valley Club, a former swimming facility located in Huntingdon Valley, Pa, resolving allegations that the company discriminated against persons because of race. The Justice Department’s investigation was conducted under Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin and religion in places of public accommodation, such as hotels, restaurants and places of entertainment.Lawyers for the kids say that as much as $1.1 million will be shared between the victims.
The settlement agreement, which must be approved by the Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, also resolves A.B., et al. v. The Valley Club of Huntingdon Valley, PA , a private suit filed by the children and their families, as well as discrimination claims filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act....
Valley Club filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy protection in November 2009. The club property was sold in June 2010 for $1,460,000. The settlement agreement stipulates that once the administration of the estate and the bankruptcy case is closed and after paying allowed costs and fees, the remaining assets will be paid to more than 50 children, their camp counselors and to Creative Steps.
“This settlement provides significant opportunity to children who were denied an opportunity based on their skin color,” said JoAnn Edwards, executive director of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. “Our hope is that this case serves as prevention for years to come and a reminder that discrimination is illegal, and has no place in Pennsylvania.”
The settlement also provides that $65,000 will be set aside from the proceeds of the sale of the Valley Club property for the creation of a leadership council that comprises former Valley Club members, Creative Steps counselors, campers and their families. The children and families affected by the Valley Club incident will take leadership roles in planning swimming, educational and recreational opportunities for the community.
The wheels of justice may grind slowly sometimes, but they do grind well.