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A federal jury has decided that a convenience store clerk did not racially discriminate against a group of black girls when he ordered them to leave the store.

A group of 11 black girls and their chaperones had sued Stewart's Ice Cream Co. and clerk Ralph L. Russell for $17.6 million for alleged racial discrimination for kicking them out of the store in Rotterdam, 15 miles northwest of Albany.

But the all-white jury in Albany rejected their claim, ruling in favor of Russell and Stewart's.

Russell said the ruling proves he made a decision based on behavior, not race. He said the girls became rambunctious, so he enforced a policy limiting how many youths can be in the store at once.

"I felt relieved. But I also felt sad," Russell said after the verdict. "I've always felt racism is learned. And unfortunately, these kids have learned it the wrong way."

The girls, ages 8 through 14, went to a Stewart's shop on a Good Friday outing last year with their church group, according to trial testimony.

One of the plaintiff's three lawyers, David Kunz, said he is considering an appeal because the jury was all white.

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