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philadelphia swim club racismA few years ago, a group of mostly black and Hispanic children from inner-city Philadelphia day camp were denied swimming privileges at the Valley Swim Club in Huntington, Pa.

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Now the U.S. Justice Department has announced a settlement awarding $1.1 million to sixty-five of the children, the camp and its counselors who were involved in the case, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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During the summer of 2009, Creative Steps Day Camp of Northeast Philadelphia paid the Valley Swim Club $1,950 to allow the children to participate in their swimming program once a week. The children first visited the premises on June 29.  Many of the youngsters began complaining to their counselors that White members at the swim club used racial slurs in reference to them.  “Why are there so many black children occupying the pool,” was one of the complaints the children allegedly heard.

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The nearly $2,000 fee that was paid to the swim club was promptly refunded and the director of Creative Steps, Althea Wright, was informed by the Valley Club’s president, John Duesler, that the children were no longer allowed to swim in the pool.

The racially motivated incident made headlines that ignited a public outcry for justice.  The Valley Club’s image was tarnished by all of the media attention and they were forced to file for bankruptcy a year later.

In addition to the million dollar settlement, the suit also requests that $65,000 be set aside for the establishment of a diversity leadership council  to be formed between Creative Steps and the club’s former owners.

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Although the swim club has now closed its doors, the attorneys for Creative Steps, the club’s former members and families of the young victims have expressed an interest in sketching a plan that would promote social interaction.

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“What we hope it will do is provide an experience for these two different racial groups of children to get together and actually be kids together and learn about each other,” Brian Mildenberg, an attorney representing Creative Steps Inc. told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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