Swim club in racial flap says it can’t afford lawsuit

Some kids from the Creative Steps Day Care Center say white members of a swim club made racial remarks.
A suburban Pennsylvania swim club accused of racism says it cannot afford to fight a lawsuit that may come from the club kicking out a largely minority daycare.

“Our pool could not handle a lawsuit. We don’t have the money. We’re just a small club. We’re volunteers,” said Bernice Duesler, the swim club director’s wife. “I hope we can teach our children a lesson — that you should admit errors. We should have done things differently. And if there are differences, we can overcome them.” The controversy started on June 29 after the Valley Swim Club, in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, revoked the swimming privileges for about 65 children from the Creative Steps Day Care center after one visit. Some black and Hispanic children said white club members made racist comments to them, asking why “black children were there” and raising concerns that “they might steal from us.” Watch what children allege club members said to them » Days later, the day care center’s $1,950 check was returned without explanation. The issue was exacerbated when Duesler’s husband, John, told two Philadelphia television stations the children had changed “the complexion” and “atmosphere” of the club. The comment brought protesters outside the facility. John Duesler also said last week that safety and crowding, not racism, prompted the cancellation. The club canceled contracts with two other day-care centers because of safety and crowding, he said. Watch swim club’s explanation to incident »

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As the controversy grew and reached national news shows, the swim club asked the daycare to return. The daycare refused and said it would pursue a lawsuit. The swim club has been subpoenaed by the state Human Relations Commission, which has begun a fact-finding investigation, said Bernice Duesler.

She again denied the claims of racism during an interview with CNN on Tuesday night. She also expressed hope of reaching a resolution. “I wish we had come up with better solutions. I wish we had it to do all over again,” she said.