Swim Club Controversy: One Big Misunderstanding?

By A. Blair
|  Sunday, Jul 12, 2009  |  Updated 11:29 AM EDT
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Swim Club President Talks: Racial Comments

Signs of defiance were held up by protesters of all ages.

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Swim Club Controversy: Legal Trouble

Protests outside The Valley Swim Club a day after a class action complaint is filed.

Harsh Lesson for Children

This is turning out to be a harsh lesson in the realities of life for the children who are caught up in the middle of this swim club controversy.
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Even after an apology is given, The Valley Swim Club in Huntingdon Valley, PA is still knee deep in troubled waters.

A class action complaint was filed in federal court Friday night against the club.  Lawyers for the suit plan to hold a press conference Monday regarding the legal action.

The suit was filed on behalf of an African-American mother and her four children because her children and several others "were denied swimming privileges due to the color of their skin," Mildenberg and Stalbaum, P.C., the law firm representing the family, said in a press release.

A protest was held outside the club Saturday.  Organizers said they wanted "to show people  that just because we have a black president doesn't mean that racism doesn't still exist in American today."

John Duesler, president of Valley Swim Club's board of directors, and his wife, Bernice Duesler, spoke for the first time Friday about allegations of racist remarks to black and hispanic campers who were told they could not come back.

The Dueslers offered an apology and said there has been a misunderstanding. But not everyone is convinced.

Dr. Duesler said it was a really bad choice of words when he said having the campers from Creative Steps Day Camp would "change the complexion of the club."

“This is a terrible misrepresentation of what I stand for," Duesler said. "We've had our home inundated with phone calls and hateful emails, horrible things..."

Despite having agreed to having 60 Creative Steps campers coming to the pool for Monday afternoon swim, Duesler says the club had to turn all campers away.

“We saw a number on paper had no idea what that would look like. It was an error in our judgment, we underestimated what we could handle”

Campers and employees of Creative Steps Day Camp, meanwhile, still hold that racism played a role in them being turned away.

Children with the Creative Steps Camp said that, from the start, they didn’t feel welcome and heard racist comments from pool club members.

The Valley Swim Club also withdrew permission for two other summer camps to swim at their facility .

Duesler and his wife say they ended their agreement with the other two camps and have given them full refunds.

State regulators have opened up an investigation to find out exactly what happened.

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