Philadelphia school district agrees to measures to quell anti-Asian violence
December 15th, 2010
06:25 PM ET

Philadelphia school district agrees to measures to quell anti-Asian violence

The Philadelphia School District signed a two-and-a-half year civil rights agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to address anti-Asian immigrant violence at a Philadelphia high school.

“Schools have an obligation to ensure a safe learning environment for everyone. We will continue to use all of the tools in our law enforcement arsenal to ensure that all students can go to school without fearing harassment,” Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division said.

The complaints were triggered by events on December 3, 2009, during which large numbers of Asian immigrant students from South Philadelphia High School were assaulted in and around the school throughout the day.

The attacks followed years of harassment against Asian students at South Philadelphia High School. In the days after the incident, more than 50 Asian students organized an eight-day boycott of the school in efforts to draw attention to what they felt was an inadequate response by the school to ongoing harassment and violence.

“We will always remember December 3, but we will refuse to be defined by that day,” Wei Chen, a senior at the time of the melee, told the members of the School Reform Commission where the settlement was announced. “A year ago we came to you as victims. Today we come to you as youth activists, as organizers and leaders who have shown the power to make change.”

Read more: Racial violence spurred Asian students to take a stand

The December boycott helped draw nationwide attention to the violence. Months later, a federal investigation was launched after a civil rights complaint was filed by the Asian-American Legal Defense Fund. The Justice Department, which announced its investigation in August, instructed the school system to improve the treatment of Asian students.

“It's precedent setting. It's putting schools across the country on notice they must proactively address harassment, and it’s a tremendous win for the students and their families,” said Cecilia Chen, staff attorney for the Asian American Legal Defense Fund.

The settlements require South Philadelphia High School to submit an anti-harassment action plan, and continue implementing policies and procedures to prevent harassment based on race, color and/or national origin.

The students are the winners, said Zane David Memeger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

“We hope that the investigation and our settlement agreement represent the start of a corrective action plan that eventually will eliminate student-on-student harassment in all Philadelphia public schools, not just South Philadelphia High School,” Memeger said.

The settlements, which hold the district responsible for implementation and oversight, resolve eight discrimination complaints alleging widespread harassment of Asian students at South Philadelphia High School.

“I am delighted to see this moving forward and I look forward to this being a lasting resolution,” said Stephen Glassman, chairman of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. “Harassment and bullying are huge roadblocks to an education for immigrants and other minority children.”

Though she is very happy about the settlement, it is a bittersweet, says advocate Helen Gym, a board member for Asian Americans United.

"This consent decree demonstrates that the violence at South Philadelphia High School was racial," said Gym, who helped many Asian students document their experiences. “We celebrate the lasting gains of these agreements. We hope that they are also welcomed with a measure of abiding humility and deep sorrow for the lack of action that required it.”

soundoff (287 Responses)
  1. kimjohill

    if these are infact black kids they should be charged withhate crime...i am Black not born in the US, 80% of my friends are asians whom i study elctrical engineering with at UCberkeley, Asians are not generetically smarter, however they spend most of their time studying, if black youths in this country concentrated their mind on studies as much as they spend in the studios or playing ball they can actually do just as well as asians...i beat my asian friends all the time in class....there are very many successful blacks in academics but they isolate themselves and never wanna associate or help their larger community grow and embrace education...majority of young blacks really don't like school and thats a sad fact...i have done my share by offering free tutoring to poor black kids in san francisco, something i usually charge able white kids....maybe one day they will rise but as it stands now the future of black america is really bleak...i don't care how much you make playing ball or rapping, but if you don't invest in education as a community you are doomed to fail...when afriend of mine complained how the justice department is unfair to blacks, i told him that maybe blacks need to go to school and become judges and lawyers and balance the justice department...i really hope the mentality change coz in this country if you are a minority who wanna go to school, the opportunity is really there no doubt. GOOD LUCK and PEACE and tolerance prevails

    December 16, 2010 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
    • kimjohill

      excuse my grammer and spellings...i am an engineer and we are terrible spellers..
      also a note that google it or wikipedia it african immigrants in the US have the highest rate in education achievements more than even there's no excuse over race.

      December 16, 2010 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
  2. Hello

    MLW is scmhuck

    December 16, 2010 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
    • wormwood

      eh, at least he/she is not beating up someone based on the shape or color of his/her face.

      December 16, 2010 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
  3. Michael

    To those who are stupid generalize people. Get out of your shells and meet people for yourselves!

    December 16, 2010 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
    • wormwood

      wait, you want them to meet other people...?

      ...the very idea scares the hell out of me. uh, keep them away from me - far, far away. thank you.

      December 16, 2010 at 1:17 am | Report abuse |
  4. sweet

    I once heard a very intelligent highly educated black man speak and what stuck with me the most was one statement. . . the reason why blacks are where they are and do what they are doing is that they have not fully accepted their freedom. How sad. I do not like that ppl barely over a century out of slavery oppressing other ppl because they are perceived as strange. I beleive any race breed or color should be left in peace to live. High school was awful i would run away if i ever had to in back and put up with all that mess over and our some more

    December 16, 2010 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
  5. Fremry

    I live in Philadelphia, and we are known as violent and terrible sports fans. We're not the bad part.

    What no one in the country knows is that all parts of the Philadelphia government (school administrators, the mayor, mayor's aides, judges, district attorneys, and ESPECIALLY the Philadelphia Police Department) are incredibly corrupt. Comparable to Serpico levels of corruption. Federal government doesn't give a crap though, and that's the only ruling body that can hold them accountable.

    The above story only happened because the Federal Justice department made it happen. Even then, it took them two years. Leave it to Philly government to fight treating people equally for two years. This is a small blip in the pervasive hatred they have of Philadelphia citizens, and it won't stop them from continuing to victimize anyone they can get away with.

    Don't believe me? Look into Philadelphia Police Department's illegal actions that are routinely covered up. Philadelphia's murder rate is so high, because no one trusts the police, and they take matters into their own hands.

    Look at Ex-Mayor John Street's corruption. Look at the Councilmen who covered up his corruption. Look at the governmental bodies that got him the high paying jobs he has now. Look at Mayor Nutter who is making the same back alley deals.

    Philadelphia may be where the this country was born, but for us denizens of the city, it's where those ideals die.

    December 16, 2010 at 12:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Ackerman is under investigation, she should be gone soon...hopefully someone with the students interests will be hired.

      December 16, 2010 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
  6. 'Waymystick

    Leave Asians alone idiots. Mess with Muslims that talk smack but Asians are fine. Can't expect too much from landlocked Philly. Nothing to do their but sweat and freeze all year long.

    December 16, 2010 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
  7. Dan

    The Head of the Philadelphia schools Arlene Ackerman is incapable of enforcing any rules to help asian students. She is in fact being investigated...

    December 16, 2010 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
  8. Tran

    The problem with CNN not mentioning that the perpetrators were African Americans is three fold. First if any other group were doing this it would have been mentioned. The second is the craven nature of the writer who felt the need to be so PC and finally the soft bigotry implied by the author by trying to protect the sensibilities of people the author feels cannot be held to the same standards of behavior as everyone else.

    December 16, 2010 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Dino

      If your right and the perpetrators were African American and CNN deliberatly witheld that information then CNN is making a mockery of this story. In fact such a stunt should prohibit them from being called a news program because they are deliberatly missinforming the public (which because of Americas racist history) would logically be led to believe the attackers were caucasian.

      December 16, 2010 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
  9. wormwood

    hey, CNN ate up a few of my comments.

    anyways, can everyone accept "racism knows no race" and move on?

    i see too many self-convincing from many of these comments.

    RACISM KNOWS NO RACE - now, let's move on.

    ps if my other comment(s) shows up later, it'd be cramping my style, CNN. >:(

    December 16, 2010 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jesse

    Where is Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton when you need them......shouldn't they be saying something to the black students?

    December 16, 2010 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
  11. Prof.

    CNN is careful not to state the race of the attackers.
    We all know who did it. Obama's tribe. As usual...

    December 16, 2010 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
    • overit

      How does it feel to know that you are part of the problem?

      December 16, 2010 at 5:40 am | Report abuse |
  12. Dino

    This story lacks specifics. How exactly were they bulllied? Was there a specific race doing the bullying? Were these white kids who were outnumbered by black and hispanic gangs and decided to take their frustration out on peace loving asian honor students?

    December 16, 2010 at 1:33 am | Report abuse |
  13. Cindy

    Why Whites are not hyphenated like all other Americans ? They should be. They all came from Europe.
    European-American sounds better...

    December 16, 2010 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
  14. Aaron

    If rich white kids were the cause of this racism, CNN would have it mentioned in every sentence. But since this is lower income African Americans, they do not mention it at all...

    December 16, 2010 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Hmm, I hadn't thought of that.

      December 16, 2010 at 1:54 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jeff

    I've seen violence played out against white guys, by white guys, because the former had issues with their physical appearance, whether that be acne, scars, deformities, etc. Why don't we have a chapter for people who generally look a bit different? Instead, we should work on just knocking out the bullying, altogether. For EVERYONE.

    December 16, 2010 at 1:51 am | Report abuse |
    • wormwood

      if you'd say the same thing if it were white-on-black,

      i agree with you 100%.

      December 16, 2010 at 2:01 am | Report abuse |
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