By Ethan Duran
On Jan. 22, the Muslim Advocates had settled a lawsuit against the City of Wilmington, DE to revise and display new clothing regulations that respect Muslim dresscode at swimming pools. The civil rights group represented the Darul Amaanah Academy, a school in Wilmington that was created to provide educational opportunities to children in a predominantly Muslim community. After children from Darul Amaanah were turned away last summer from their local swimming pool for wearing hijabs and shirts in the water, the Muslim Advocates sent a cease and desist to the city and followed up with a lawsuit after talks with the mayor were delayed.
The plaintiffs of the case were the Darul Amaanah Academy and the families whose children attend the school, who were all represented by the Muslim Advocates. The defendants were the City of Wilmington, including Wilmington Mayor Michael Purzycki and Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Kelly. The action was filed last year in late August, but the court battled carried on through fall and winter until this January.
According to the complaint, the City agreed to revise its dress code policy at public pools to accommodate clothing worn for religious reasons or financial hardship to ensure access for all patrons of city pools. Employees at public pools would have additional training to be aware of the new policies, and a $50,000 compensation would be awarded to the plaintiffs.
Juvaria Khan, a senior staff attorney at Muslim Advocates said that she hoped this victory would set a precedent not just for Muslim communities, but for all cities so they can avoid lawsuits and ask what they can do to accommodate their own communities. According to Khan, Darul Amaanah said that the arbitrary policy did not just affect them but also non-religious children who couldn’t afford traditional swimwear and were banned from pools for wearing t-shirts.
Khan said, “A lot of these incidents go under the radar and go unreported. Some families may be embarrassed or not have the know-how to stand up for their rights.” Khan said the first thing to do when confronting discrimination at a public facility is to raise the issue with staff and to contact the leadership of an institution before taking legal action.