After young Muslim students were asked to leave a Wilmington public pool in June because of what they were wearing, the city has reached a $50,000 settlement with attorneys representing an Islamic youth enrichment program and five families.
The payment ends a lawsuit filed in August after a Darul Amaanah Academy teacher and students complained they were harassed by management and staff at the Foster Brown Pool.
They say the pool manager, who asked them to leave because they were wearing cotton clothing and head scarves, then called police.
The lawsuit alleged the city violated the group’s constitutional rights by repeatedly targeting them based on their religious beliefs.
“I think this has been a challenging situation for the children to navigate. A lot of the kids impacted and removed from the pool were young children, many of them preschool age, who would go home crying and ask why people hated Muslims,” said attorney Juvaria Khan of Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy organization representing the plaintiffs.
“We’re pleased to be able to reach a settlement and put policies in place to make sure that doesn’t happen again, and I think children involved in this can be proud of themselves for standing up and creating a better Wilmington — not just for themselves but their friends also.”
Under the settlement, the city does not admit any wrongdoing. However, in addition to the payment, it has agreed to clarify its dress code policy, which will accommodate clothing worn for religious reasons. These new regulations will be displayed at facilities.
“Our clients have always viewed this lawsuit as something more than just about themselves,” Khan said.
“The terms of the settlement allow for the accommodation of clothing people might wear because of their religious needs, including our clients, but it also allows for people in Wilmington who may not be able to afford certain bathing suits to wear what they need to because of their financial hardship,” Khan said.
“So I think it will make a real impact on the residents in Wilmington, both in terms of the clothing allowed at the pool, but signaling who is welcome and everyone is allowed to be there and enjoy the pool.”
In a statement, city officials said they “regret that unclear swimwear policies and the lack of specific training on such policies fueled a misunderstanding which left the plaintiffs feeling excluded from a city pool. The city reaffirms its longstanding policy that all people are welcome at the city’s pools.”
Foster Brown School is adjacent to Darul Amaanah Academy, and Khan said she believes the children will return to the pool.