A group of young Muslim children on a summer program field trip were reportedly asked to leave a public Wilmington, Delaware, pool on June 25, according to a Monday report.
Tahsiyn A. Ismaa’eel, the group's counselor, believes that she and the kids were asked to leave because of their Muslim attire.
What are the details?
The public pool's manager reportedly said that the children would have to leave because they were wearing cotton shirts, shorts, and hijabs, and it violated the pool's dress code.
Ismaa'eel said that if this is a rule, it's never been enforced in the past, as she has been taking kids there for the last four years and has not had a problem before.
"There’s nothing posted that says you can’t swim in cotton," Ismaa’eel, who is both owner and principal of the Darul-Amaanah Academy, told the News Journal. "At the same time, there are other kids with cotton on. … I asked, 'Why are my kids being treated differently?'"
Ismaa'eel said that prior to her leaving with the children, the pool manager had a police officer approach her, asking when the group would be departing.
According to Ismaa'eel, the officer told her that "people are waiting to get in and waiting for you to leave."
"No one is bothering them," she added. "We were approached first about the cotton, and then it became, 'Oh, the pool is overcapacity so you need to leave.' ... I felt very unwanted."
How did the city respond?
Initially, John Rago, Mayor Mike Purzycki's deputy chief of staff for policy and communication, said that the ban against cotton in the pools is reportedly a safety issue.
“There are city rules and regulations designed to ensure the safety of those who use the pools," Rago said. "One of the rules requires that all swimmers wear proper swimming attire.”
Rago added that wearing cotton in the pool is a safety issue because "cotton becomes heavy when wet and weighs swimmers down."
"Cotton also strains the pool filtration system more than proper swimwear," he added.
According to the News Journal, Wilmington's posted swimming rules "do not define proper swimming attire except to disallow 'cut-off jeans.'"
The outlet reported that the state's only regulation regarding swimwear at public pools is that swimsuits are "recommended."
Rago added that the city would be revising regulation language to "more clearly communicate pool swimwear regulations."
According to Rago, the revised verbiage would read, "Swimmers must wear proper swimwear (swimwear composed of Nylon, Lycra, Spandex, and Polyester is permitted, but cotton and wool clothes are not permitted)."
On Saturday, Purzycki addressed the controversy personally, and apologized on behalf of the city, which he said exercised poor judgment in its reaction to Ismaa'eel's recollection of the event.
“I apologize to the children who were directed to leave a city pool because of the religious-required clothing they were wearing,” Purzycki said in a statement. “We also referred to vaguely-worded pool policies to assess and then justify our poor judgement, and that was also wrong.”
A press release containing Purzycki's full statement read:
Mayor Purzycki Reverses a City Action Regarding City Pools
He apologizes and says the City used poor judgement in assessing what happened and then how it reacted to the matter
Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki today reaffirmed the City’s long-standing policy that all people are welcome at city pools. Purzycki said it was wrong of the City to ask children of the Muslin faith to leave a city pool because of religious-related clothing they were wearing. Purzycki said the City used poor judgement in assessing this entire matter and equally poor judgement in reacting to it.
“We should be held accountable for what happened and how poorly we assessed this incident, said Mayor Purzycki. “I apologize to the children who were directed to leave a city pool because of the religious-required clothing they were wearing,” said Mayor Purzycki. “We also referred to vaguely-worded pool policies to assess and then justify our poor judgement, and that was also wrong.”
The Mayor said he hopes to meet soon with the children’s camp director and with the children who were asked to leave the city pool so he can address their concerns and offer a personal apology. The Mayor also said he wants to assure everyone that religious-related garb is permitted at city pools. The Mayor said the City needs to be better than this, and he hopes that his words today will begin to rectify the situation.