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. kenneth Coleman

    ...whites have move into entire nations and destroyed them so don't go off on this tired old story of blacks moving into white neighborhoods destroying them. These are just kids fearing their territory being taken over, white kids do the same crap.

    December 16, 2010 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
  2. John

    It is indeed a shame that full reporting is avoided when dealing with certain stories. It is even worse in NYC, where black on Asian violence is rarely even reported at all. My best friend teaches high school in Brooklyn, and the stories she tells me about the black on Asian or Middle Eastern kids is appalling.

    December 16, 2010 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
  3. Amy

    Interesting that they can say "violence" "attacks" "harrasment" and "discrimination" but never mention that what was done to these Asian Americans was pure RACISM. Wonder why that is

    December 16, 2010 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
  4. Rose

    The measures that the school agreed to are innocuous. Guess who is going to pay for providing a "safer environment"? Taxpayers!

    Everyone one of those black students should have been expelled! Then you would have a "safe environment".

    December 16, 2010 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
  5. Sally Li

    What happened to the comment I just posted? I don't see it.

    December 16, 2010 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
    • sayNOtoAsians

      Unfortunately CNN only allows certain number of comments per Asian and you were over your limit.

      December 16, 2010 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • wormwood



      December 16, 2010 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  6. saywaaat

    those asians are the future leaders ,because they are smart and hard working.unlike most others.

    December 16, 2010 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
  7. conradshull

    I wonder if Eric Holder considers the writers of this story to be part of his "Nation of cowards"?

    December 16, 2010 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
  8. Sally Li

    This is one more reason to abolish public education. Every immigrant group which has come to America has had to endure its share of hazing – and one primary ingredient in that hazing is learning English quickly. In recent years, multiculturalism has meant that increasingly, in the context of public education, the new arrivals are increasingly dictating the hazing rituals.
    People are coming straight off the boat, and insisting that everyone adapt to their way. Classes must be taught in the old country language of the new arrivals, and administrative procedures changed to suit the language of the immigrants, who haven't paid anything into the system to begin with. They are basically out to sponge and pilfer the system, to get everything out of it that's coming their way. One of those benefits is the right to play the system (including the media) for all they can get out of it, in terms of money, political power and sympathy. And this is the same system that has swept black crime against Asians in America under the rug, for too long. But one wonders if there is more smoke than fire. I myself at first felt great sympathy for the alleged Asian victims of attacks – but how many of these victims sought medical attention? I contacted an Asian support group to offer my services for free, to help any students in this context who needed counseling or home tutoring – which you would think would be a necessity if the situation actually were what was reported by the media. Not one person contacted me to take advantage of my offer, or even to thank me for it or to follow up.

    December 16, 2010 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
  9. Concerned Guardian,

    I have a niece whom is attending Berkley College in White Plains NY, She was living on campus but ended up leaving the Dorm and returning home do to her roommates choosing to party all the time and have others in the dorm room at 6:00 am hanging out. She complained to the administration and ended up getting harassed by her roommates. I contacted the school (Berkley College, White Plains NY) three weeks ago and no one has gotten back to me. It seems one must get their lawyer to look into these harassment matters because the schools do care until there’s a death that makes headlines like the Rutgers incident. Unbelievable, Good Job Berkley College, White Plains Campus.

    December 16, 2010 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
  10. Sally Li

    How much taxpayer expense is all this activity about this episode going to entail, before all is said and done? Or is this a blank check because it is for "the children" – many of whom are young adults in their late teens and twenties who managed to obtain a free education at taxpayer expense? And one elephant in the room which the media is not mentioning is the fact that South Philadelphia (like Harrisburg, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York) is a major hub of Asian gang activity, and what we are seeing in this public school theater of the absurd may in reality be as much rival gang activity as inter-ethnic strife – and it may well be that this entire claim of victimization has been orchestrated from mainland China from day one.

    December 16, 2010 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
  11. Yakman

    “We will always remember December 3, but we will refuse to be defined by that day,”
    We feel the same way!!!! December 7th, 1941!!!!!

    December 16, 2010 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
  12. Chief Run A Muck

    We should send all Aisans, Blacks, and Slavs back where they came from. Then ship out the western Europeans and all the people of spanish ancestery.Finish this off with who ever else is left here. Then we can have the whole place to ourselves. We are not "native americans", this place is not even called america. So all of you just go home to what ever sh!thole you came from.

    December 16, 2010 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      To your comments, Europeans should have not colonized other countries. Now they are coming to colonize Western Europe. You should have talked to your gov't instead putting your comments here, fyi....NO USE!

      December 16, 2010 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
    • bloodline

      Who will play your the slots at the crappy casinos on your reservations? Who will buy the cheap "Indian" trinkets and take pictures with the fake "Indian" chiefs to support your alcoholism? Just wondering.

      December 16, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Milk

      Which planet are you from, sir? Based on your terrible spelling, I take it that you're not from here. If you're going to represent us, at least get your spelling and say something intelligent.

      December 16, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  13. hmmmm......

    I hope CNN knows that everyone can be racist, not just white people. I find it a little odd that in a story that is clearly about racially motivated violence, the race of the attackers is never mentioned. Let's see if I can figure this one out. Violence in South Philly.............i bet it was the Jews.

    December 16, 2010 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
  14. just an american

    where i grew up in california, I was teased for NOT being asian...go figure.

    December 16, 2010 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
    • wormwood

      teasing and physical assault are two entirely separate things.

      ...would you like me to demonstrate? 😉

      December 16, 2010 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  15. Mrs. Davis

    School bullying and harrassment is a big problem and schools need to be proactive. The leadership needs to come from the top and needs to convey No Tolerance for Bullying. I would like to add that bullying of gay students is something that many schools need to address. In my experience, a lot of gay students are being harrassed and the harrassers are not always students. In some cases they are teachers. Teachers who express virilently anti-gay sentiments need to be counseled. If it continues, they need to be fired. Students who harrass and bully gay students need to also be counseled, along with their parents. If it continues, they need to be suspended or expelled depending on the severity of the offense. I see way too many very capable gay students coming into alternative schools to get GEDs because they were just too harrassed at their mainstream schools. Parents of gay students who are harrassed need to be proactive, too. Stand up for your child. Do not let your child just take it. If the schools don't help, file criminal charges. Your child could end up a high school dropout, get a GED instead of the type of diploma they were capable of receiving (which affects college admissions), or they could even end up dead (suicide). I'm glad to see the Justice Department getting involved. I happen to be African American. I was harrassed by whites in the '70s in high school on the bus. Today in inner cities, it's, unfortunately, some blacks sometimes that are the harrassers. This saddens me because two wrongs don't make a right. As more Latinos and Asians are moving into the schools, they are getting harrassed. In my community, it is Latinos. However, as more move in, they support eachother with gangs. The U.S. needs to get in front of this growing problem.

    December 16, 2010 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
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