still no agreement on violence at south philly high

By now, you've heard about the ongoing racial violence that has plagued students at South Philadelphia High School, with 26 Asian students getting attacked last month. Supposedly, there have been steps taken to make sure this doesn't happen again, but there still appears to be discord behind the scenes: No consensus on prevention at South Phila. High meeting.

Yesterday, as part of an investigation begun last week, the Pennsylvania Commission on Human Relations called a private meeting with representatives of the Asian American community to get their take on the violence. Superintendent Arlene Ackerman also decided to show up. After that, there was little agreement about the situation:
So for four hours yesterday, Ackerman and the Asian advocates presented widely divergent analyses of the Dec. 3 attacks, in which Asian students were beaten by large groups of primarily African American students.

The superintendent said that she wanted the finger-pointing to stop, that the underlying problem was citywide violence and racial discord spilling over into schools. She also suggested that the trouble at South Philadelphia High might be gang-related, a theory never before voiced.

Activists have accused the district of long turning a blind eye to the problems of immigrant students. The district's fixes - including more counselors, cameras, police officers, and diversity training for students and staff - are a start, they say, but only a start.

"There's clearly some disagreement about the nature of the violence and the nature of the remedies that are being put into place," Glassman said in recounting the meeting.
There seems to be a complete refusal on the part of the school district to acknowledge the racial violence at the core of this issue, and it starts with Superintendent Arlene Ackerman's anywhere-but-here efforts to lay blame, instead accusing others of finger-pointing.

She even went as far as suggesting that the trouble at South Philadelphia High might be gang-related. That's a first. Ah, yes, Arlene. When all else fails, thrown in the old "gang-related" reasoning to explain the violence. The implication, of course, is that we're talking about Asian gangs.

There also seems to be a subtle effort to undermine any sort of efficacy or agency from Asian students. Is the school district purposely ignoring Asian students on this issue? It sure seems that way.

Ackerman had booked a bus and brought along a number of South Philadelphia High "student ambassadors" -- predominantly African American students not involved in the December 3 fights -- to talk about their efforts to promote harmony at the school. She apparently wanted to make sure that the commissioners heard the students' side -- the "one voice that has been silent."

That's great, but the busload of kids did not include any Asian students who had been victims of the attacks or who had boycotted the school last month. Wouldn't it be great if Asian students -- you know, the actual victims in this situation -- we're included in the group that Ackerman gave a shit about?

The Superintendent has expressed frustration over the attention the case had received, and that the situation is "taking up a lot of my time." Is that right? Well, we're sorry that all this is an inconvenience to you, but it would be nice if Asian students didn't have to attend school in constant fear of getting beat up, or worse.

Make sure you read the article about the meeting here. Then I suggest expressing your frustration the good, old-fashioned way, with a letter to the editor: inquirer.letters@phillynews.com. Please limit your message to 300 words, and be sure to sign your name, address and phone number they can call to confirm the letter is authentic.

I also suggest making a donation to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. Make sure that under "Designate my donation" you indicate that it's for the civil rights complaint against the Philadelphia School District.

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