The Montgomery County swim club that sparked a racial furor when it disinvited a Philadelphia day camp of mostly black and Hispanic children last month wants to invite the group back, a club official said today.
"The board decided we would reach out to Creative Steps to . . . get the kids back to the club in a safe environment," John G. Duesler Jr., president of the Valley Club in Huntingdon Valley, said late this evening.
A storm of controversy has surrounded the club since it barred a return by Creative Steps' 65 children after the group's first visit there June 29.
Asked why the club was reversing course, Duesler said, "Because it's the right thing to do."
How the new overture will go over with officials and families at Creative Steps Inc. of Northeast Philadelphia was not clear.
Duesler said he had "reached out" with his conciliatory message to Creative Steps director Alethea Wright "in e-mails, phone calls, and texts. I have not heard back yet."
"They should have done that before," Wright told CNN this evening. "These children are scarred. How can I take those children back there?"
A lawyer whose firm filed a discrimination lawsuit against Valley Club on Friday on behalf of an unnamed Creative Steps mother with four children said today that the club's overture would put the suit on hold.
"We find this to be a very positive development," said the lawyer, David Mildenberg. "We applaud the club's decision."
Mildenberg & Stalbaum P.C. had sued Friday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
"We are hopeful that a resolution will be reached that allows these children to return to the club," said Mildenberg, who said his Philadelphia firm was handling the suit on a pro bono basis.
On June 29, 65 children from Creative Steps made their first visit to the club and heard members make racial remarks and saw parents escort their children from the pool.
On July 3, the Valley Club refunded a $1,950 check to the camp to terminate the deal that allowed the children, from kindergarten through seventh grade, to swim there.
Club member Amy Goldman said those at a hastily called meeting at the club yesterday afternoon agreed to reinstate the memberships of Creative Steps and two other day camps as long as safety issues, times, and terms could be agreed upon, according to the Associated Press.
The ouster of the children prompted protests at the club the last few days.
Other clubs have offered their pools to the campers.
The Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission is investigating, and Sen. Arlen Specter (D., Pa.) has asked the Justice Department to see whether the club violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Contact staff writer Vernon Clark at 215-854-5717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.