On Dec. 15th, the Justice Department announced a settlement agreement with the School District of Philadelphia. The settlement resolves complaints, made by the Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, of racial harassment of Asian students at South Philadelphia High School. The Justice Department found that Asian American Students were persistently harassed (see original story).
The School District agreed to retain an expert consultant on racial hassment to review the District’s policies and procedures concerning harassment; develop and implement a comprehensive plan for preventing and addressing student-on-student harassment at the high school; conduct training of faculty, staff and students on discrimination and harassment based on race, color and/or national origin and to increase multi-cultural awareness; maintain and publicize records amd reports of investigations and responses to allegations of harassment.
Statement from the Asian Students Association of Philadelphia (ASAP) on the Justice Department Consent Decree on South Philadelphia High School
December 15, 2010
One year ago today, December 15th, 2009, the students of the South Philadelphia High School boycott decided to suspend our 8-day boycott after gaining national and international support for our effort to stop racial bias against us and fight for truly safe schools . Today, December 15th, 2010, we are here to witness our next victory: the Consent Decree enforced by the U.S. Dept. of Justice and the PA Human Relations Commission.
We are here today to emphasize that this agreement did not come into existence by itself. We the students and the community advocates went to the Dept. of Justice and PHRC in order to ensure that the changes at our school lasted for students beyond just us. We did not want money or lawsuits. What we wanted was a clear statement that what had been happening at our school was wrong in the eyes of the federal government. This action shows that the U.S., our country, believes that every child has a right to a safe school, which is protected by the U.S. Constitution and upheld by the courts.
We are here today to be a part of our own victory. However, we do not forget the many students who have dropped out or lost faith and are not here because too many school officials have let them down.
Many people tried to tell us that it was not racial what was happening to us. But what people have to understand is that Asian youth do suffer from racial bias, from people calling them names and adults not doing anything, from making fun of our accents, the way we dress, who we hang out with. We know other students suffer from racial bias in schools or from other biases as well. Recently, many LBGT students have been harassed all around the country, many of whom have committed suicide because nobody spoke up against bullying. We hope that we can share this victory with all those students who have been victims of bias.
As much as this past year was hard on all of us, many times we felt lifted up by people all across the city and this nation. People sent us letters of support, community allies worked with us and taught us how to use our voices and build new relationships, other students across the city who supported us. Today we are no longer the students of the South Philadelphia High School boycott. We are the Asian Student Association of Philadelphia.
We will always remember December 3, but we refuse to be defined by that day. 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. We thank the Dept. of Justice and PHRC and will continue to work closely with them to ensure that South Philadelphia High School is a better school for all students.