Asian Students and School System Still At Odds as DOJ Supports Student Claims of Harassment

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) sent a letter at the end of August to Philadelphia School District supporting Asian American claims of systemic racial injustice at South Philadelphia High School. They found merit in the claims of Asian students who said they were abused at South Philadelphia High School. The DOJ advised school officials to settle the matter.

The immediate case that sparked the DOJ investigation occurred on Dec. 3, when mostly African American classmates assaulted 30 Asian students throughout the day. However, the school has had a long history of violence involving Asian American students.

In a press conference in Chinatown on Sept. 1, Asian students and activists, who have formed a member of South Philadelphia High School Asian Student Advocates (SASA), asked for concrete commitments beyond punitive measures against students. SASA continues to press for a series of meetings with school district administration, a process that Superintendent Arlene Ackerman has denied to date.

Cecilia Chen, an attorney with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said that measures to address violence must go beyond "disciplining perpetrators." She suggested multiracial history classes as one possibility. They expressed doubts of the measures announced - a program run by Asian Arts Initiative, an in-school center for new immigrants, and classes offering Chinese language instruction.

"What we don't want to see is a lot of broad proclamations without a significant dialogue with the community," said Helen Gym, a leader of SASA.

Bach Tong, a rising junior who recently transferred, said, "It's about the adults who are supposed to stand up and take responsibility."

Meanwhile, SASA is organizing orientations to support incoming freshmen students feel supported, announced student leaders Wei Chen and Duong-Nghe Ly.

 

The District later announced that they have also hired Kimlime Chek-Taylor, a Cambodian American assistant principal for South Philadelphia High. Most of the Asian students at the school are Vietnamese and Chinese American.