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12.16.2009

asian students suspend south philly high school boycott

Yesterday evening, I got word that the students of South Philadelphia High School have agreed to suspend their boycott of the school following a frank, and occasionally pointed exchange with School Superintendent Arlene Ackerman. Present at the meeting were:
  • More than 30 of the 50-60 students who had been boycotting the school
  • 10-12 "student ambassadors" from the school
  • A number of community members from the Asian community: Helen Gym/Ellen Somekawa, Asian Americans United; Nancy and Michelle Nguyen from Boat People SOS; Xu Lin, Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation; Mia-Lia Kiernan, Cambodian Association of Greater Philadelphia, Thoai Nguyen, SEAMAAC, Allan Wong, Mayor's Commission on Asian American Affairs, etc.
  • Arlene Ackerman, Mike Silverman, Principal Lagreta Brown, Asst. Principal Ozzie Wright
As you know, the students boycotted school for eight days in the wake of assaults against Asian students both inside and outside the building. The students were concerned that safety issues had been consistently ignored and that the school's lack of appropriate response had contributed to escalating violence against them.

Tuesday's meeting lasted more than two hours. Here's the public statement put forth by the students of South Philly High School boycott:
Through our trials and struggles, we pushed the school to hear us. We have made change by standing together. We are proud of what we have done. If something happens again after all this, we know that we have strong wills and we will stand together again.

We have came back to stand with more students. We want to start a dialogue with other student organizations. We will continue to work with the community organizations. The struggle will go on until all the demands are met; we won't give up. We ask everyone to continue to pay attention to what's going on at SPHS. We hope that school can change their attitude for the benefits of all students. We thank our supporters. Without the support of everyone we could not go this far. We are excited for the future. We now believe in hope and change, like president Obama.

We want a safe school for everyone; we want everyone to have a good education. This is not the end, but just the beginning of the fight for better futures and better educations for all races of students.

~ Students of the South Philly High boycott ~
So it's back to school. While the district has made a lot of assurances that it's be taking steps to put a stop to the violence, I imagine this isn't much comfort to the students who were on the receiving end of the attacks on December 3, or the students who have endured antagonism and apathy for years -- often from the teachers and administrators. More here: Asian students 'suspend' boycott of South Philadelphia High.

In the meantime, as I mentioned before, I suggest supporting the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which is filing a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice against the Philadelphia School District for failing to address the ongoing violence. You can make a donation to AALDEF here. Make sure that under "Designate my donation" you indicate that it's for the civil rights complaint against the Philadelphia School District.