Should everyone have to follow the rules of a public pool, or should some people be exempt because they have their own set of rules?

According to USA Today, it’s the fourth year Tahsiyn A. Ismaa’eel has taken children, participants in her summer Arabic enrichment program, to Wilmington’s Foster Brown public pool. But this year marked the first time some of her elementary schoolers were asked to leave the pool, Ismaa’eel said — supposedly because they were wearing cotton shirts; shorts; and hijabs, or headscarves.

The pool manager said it’s against city policy to wear cotton in public pools, according to Ismaa’eel. If it’s a rule, Ismaa’eel said, “it’s never been enforced.” To pick on her group is discrimination, she said.

“There’s nothing posted that says you can’t swim in cotton,” said Ismaa’eel, owner and principal of the Darul-Amaanah Academy and director of its summer program. “At the same time, there are other kids with cotton on. … I asked, ‘Why are my kids being treated differently?'”

Ismaa’eel, who wears a hijab with a niqab covering her face, said she told the manager she would relay the message to the program parents. But that didn’t resolve the issue.

“She (later) had a police officer come over and ask what time we were leaving,” Ismaa’eel said.

A city officer often sits in a patrol car outside the pool, she noted, but it’s unusual for officers to enter the facility.

“She said there are people waiting to get in and waiting for you to leave,” Ismaa’eel said of the officer.

Mayor Mike Purzycki’s office declined to be interviewed about the incident. In an emailed statement, John Rago, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff for policy and communication, said the supposed cotton ban is a safety issue.

“There are city rules and regulations designed to ensure the safety of those who use the pools,” he said. “One of the rules requires that all swimmers wear proper swimming attire.”

But what “proper attire” means is unclear. The city’s posted rules do not define proper swimming attire except to disallow “cut-off jeans.” Rago pointed to language from the state, but Delaware’s only regulation regarding swimwear at public pools is that bathing suits are “recommended.”

Neither set of rules makes any mention of cotton.

“Among the safety considerations is the fact that cotton becomes heavy when wet and weighs swimmers down,” Rago said in his statement. “Cotton also strains the pool filtration system more than proper swimwear.”


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