The mayor of Wilmington, Delaware, apologized to Muslim children who were asked to leave a public pool because of their religious clothing, saying that officials used “poor judgment” in the situation.
Wilmington Mayor Michael Purzycki was slated to also meet Tuesday night with the leaders of the day camp the children were attending, but the camp owners called this afternoon to cancel, his office said. The meeting is expected to be rescheduled.
“We should be held accountable for what happened and how poorly we assessed this incident,” Purzycki said in a statement Saturday.
The incident occurred on June 25 at the Foster Brown pool in central Wilmington, according to John Rago, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff.
According to ABC station WPVI, city officials said that the Muslim children were barred from wearing cotton shirts, shorts and headscarves in the pool because cotton poses a safety risk and is detrimental to the pool’s filtration system.
Purzycki apologized for the children being directed to leave the pool and for the way that the situation was handled.
“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 the statement. “We also referred to vaguely-worded pool policies to assess and then justify our poor judgment, and that was also wrong.”
The camp is run by the Darul Amaanah Academy, an Islamic education organization, led by principal Tahsiyn A. Ismaa’eel.
Rago confirmed that the mayor will meet with the owners of the camp who brought the kids to the pool that day.
Ismaa’eel told The Delaware News Journal that she has been taking students and campers to the pool for four years but had never run into issues with the pool staff until this summer.
“There’s nothing posted that says you can’t swim in cotton,” Ismaa’eel told The Delaware News Journal. “At the same time, there are other kids with cotton on … I asked, ‘Why are my kids being treated differently?”
Ismaa’eel told the paper that she was approached by an officer, who regularly is posted outside the pool, and the officer asked what time the group was going to leave.
“She said there are people waiting to get in and waiting for you to leave,” Ismaa’eel told The Delaware News Journal. “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,” she added in her comments to the paper.
Ismaa’eel did not immediately return ABC News’ request for comment.
Following the incident, the Darul Amaanah Academy launched an online fundraiser to support its summer camp program, writing on GoFundMe about “the recent discrimination our camper [sic] have faced more than once” at the pool.” The group has raised $230 so far.
“We are happy to announce that we have received a bunch of swimsuits for our girls!” the group wrote on its Facebook page.