As the director of Darul Amaanah Academy in Wilmington, Del, Tahsiyn Ismaa’eel had a simple goal — to facilitate a pool-day for her Muslim campers. The closest city pool, Foster Brown, is practically next door. Easy-peasy, right? But according to the camp director, since early summer the camp has experienced discrimination on at least six occasions due to the children’s modest attire or barred from entering the pool entirely. Pool staff members cited an un-posted rule prohibiting cotton clothing in the pool (many of the young campers wear long shorts or tights, T-shirts and hijabs to go swimming).
“There’s no point in going back,” says Ms. Ismaa’eel. “We’re portrayed as troublemakers when in fact, there was never a policy in writing.” Parents are struggling how to explain this to their young children. “My children literally sat on the side of the pool each time and cried,” said Mia Miller, whose two young daughters have special needs.
Mayor Mike Purzycki of Wilmington has apologized, and his Deputy Chief of Staff, John Rago, confirmed that the rules and regulations only prohibit cutoff jeans and that there is no mention of cotton clothing. Mr. Rago said the city has taken the matter very seriously, and has invited the city’s Muslim community to help review and update the pool policies. Pool staff members will now undergo specialized training “so there is nothing left to individual interpretation.”
For the remainder of the city’s pool season, there will be a “very liberal policy in place regarding proper swimwear without restrictions on the types of fabrics worn,” states Mr. Rago. And the pool manager has been reassigned to administrative duties.