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. Davey Jones

    Not that this excuses them at all, but highest incidence of crime among them is black on black. They don't have any respect for themselves so don't expect great things.

    December 16, 2010 at 2:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Andrew D

      bankrupt mindless dribble that only feeds the ignorance of indifference, just as much a part of the problem as the problem it self, this type built in reasoning that hold an entire culture up for slaughter is the oil that lights the fire of indifference but we can't see that now can we.

      December 16, 2010 at 2:12 am | Report abuse |
    • mane

      Because the police will let them fight and kill themselves. Contrast that with the trailer park and you will find tough enforcement when the police is summoned for any infraction. In the white neigborhood, the police will enforce the law but will let the blacks kill themselves if they want to.

      December 16, 2010 at 3:06 am | Report abuse |
  2. Andrew D

    There is no excuse for any indifference of another human being due to there culture or heritage, this behavior is that of the weak of mind foul of heart, this is the ignorance that hate builds and it is a stain upon all who are not of the foul ignorance of indifference , if every individual would stand agaainst the coward in there self first and take on this coward behavior of indifference ,this could be changed like any other bankrupt thought and felling of the dysfunctional behavior of indifference. May peace be in you.

    December 16, 2010 at 2:04 am | Report abuse |
    • overit

      ummm yeah, I'm not sure I understand what you are saying. Sounds very preacher-esque though!

      December 16, 2010 at 5:35 am | Report abuse |
  3. ProtoMan

    @Cindy: Here in Michigan there are many european groups who never identify as Americans. Albanians, Yugoslavian/Serbian, Italians, Russian, Ukrainian, and a few more. They all have cultural centers here and I often see their nation's flag or crest on their cars. Many don't even consider themselves white because the media has made it a bad word. Many whites complain about African American museums or proposed africatown developments in Detroit, yet nobody complains about Greektown, mexican town or chinatown. There are many double standards. We all know that america is a multicultural experiment and it's success or failure depends on people accepting our differences while embracing the fact that we are Americans.

    December 16, 2010 at 2:08 am | Report abuse |
  4. ProtoMan

    Being American is not a bad thing. I love this country even though it needs a bit of fixing. Immigrants work harder than those born here, because where they came from hard work wasn't rewarded. I just wish they would embrace this country. Be a proud (insert nationality) all you want, but play for the home team. I hate pretentious foreigners who act like their homeland is so amazing.

    December 16, 2010 at 2:18 am | Report abuse |
  5. Mitsuo Kenkichi

    Violent racist black people? No way, can't imagine such a thing.

    December 16, 2010 at 2:18 am | Report abuse |
  6. wormwood

    hey god. i got to write here tonight, as you can see, and as you have already seen before. i know you already know my thoughts, but i'm writing here for the benefits of those who may find peace who have no peace by reading these words.

    a few of these people are in utter darkness and they refuse to repent of their evil thus far. i am praying for them, that you may lead them into righteousness. and that'll mean that they'll have to feel the pain that they have caused it on others either through these comments, or in their very lives. and if you still find them unrepentant of their evil, well, i'm not going there - that's entirely your territory.

    now, do your magic, as you always do - your name is indeed FEEL GOOD; you feel good no matter what happens in this world. you alone endure all the evil happening around the world. you are god.

    thank you.

    December 16, 2010 at 2:23 am | Report abuse |
    • wormwood

      ps why is it so dark (bad feelings) on this page? let there be light (good feelings) - let's expose everything, both good and bad, so that everyone may see in plain sight.

      December 16, 2010 at 2:40 am | Report abuse |
    • overit

      Dear Genie in the magic lamp.

      I would like to use one of my three wishes tonight to stop racism. The other two wishes will revolve around money and lots of women. Maybe an endless supply of fish tacos.


      December 16, 2010 at 5:39 am | Report abuse |
    • wormwood

      finally someone who's not that serious!

      ps i second money and lots of women...

      ...but fish tacos??? yuck.. it's not even 8 am here yet.

      pps on a second thought, i don't mind salmon tacos - salmon's good with pretty much anything.

      December 16, 2010 at 7:36 am | Report abuse |
  7. mane

    It is criminal when blacks are territorial but patriotic when whites kill a mexican immigrant for being here. Glad no asian was killed by the black kids.

    December 16, 2010 at 3:01 am | Report abuse |
  8. Jan

    This is astounding and disturbing! This nation has a LONG way to go!! When have Asian students ever been troublesome, unless you count the perfect SAT scores, so why are they subject to harassment and assault???

    The more countries I visit, the less I like my home country. Americans are bigots and arrogant for the most part, with a complete lack of awareness and respect for the international community. This story just further confirms my thoughts.

    December 16, 2010 at 3:09 am | Report abuse |
  9. Kevin

    Maybe they should go back to Asia.

    December 16, 2010 at 3:23 am | Report abuse |
    • JamesD

      Maybe you should go back to Europe

      December 16, 2010 at 5:36 am | Report abuse |
  10. CWBarrett

    It's blacks.

    December 16, 2010 at 3:33 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jusakid

    BTW just for everyones information South Philly HIgh might as well be a Recd center for ass holes. Its blacks v whites and blacks and whites v asians. This isnt the greatest place to go to school. For those that think whites are the worst, false they are in lesser numbers then blacks. Kids come to school with bats and knives every day, It is what it is

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

    when are we going to stop talking about racism and start talking about ignorance? That's what fuels the racist machine.

    December 16, 2010 at 5:29 am | Report abuse |
    • wormwood

      because many still choose to be ignorant about the matter...?

      December 16, 2010 at 7:42 am | Report abuse |
  13. pray

    this is unacceptable, I did take a quick look at the demographics and that upsets me even more.

    December 16, 2010 at 5:50 am | Report abuse |
  14. Cesar

    @Stixx: Someone ought to teach you a good lesson boy.

    December 16, 2010 at 6:11 am | Report abuse |
  15. really?

    SPHS should lose any taxpayers money if they stand up to bullying of any kind and toward any individuals regardless of race and creed. Students should be able to gain an education by not feeling their safety are in jepordy.

    December 16, 2010 at 6:15 am | Report abuse |
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