what's wrong with the south philly high report

More on the report released this week investigating the December 3 attacks at South Philadelphia High School: Report released on racial violence at S. Phila. High. Philadelphia Schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, who commissioned the report, called it "thorough and comprehensive" and "fair."

Some community activists, however, aren't buying it. Helen Gym, a board member at Asian Americans United, finds the report glaringly incomplete, with huge discrepancies between accounts of student victims and witnesses. The findings also appear to absolve the District of any responsibility. Yes, imagine that -- a District-commissioned report covering its own ass.

With little insight, the report leaves the community right back where it started. Helen breaks down the report pretty thoroughly: No resolution on violence at South Philadelphia High School. Among the areas where the report falls short:
No review of the history of violence at SPHS: For more than a year, students and community advocates documented dozens of incidents of harassment and assaults on Asian immigrant students at the school. Yet, Judge Giles said he was directed to limit his investigation to only two days, December 2 and December 3rd. Only three sentences in the report (p. 28) reference prior violence at the school. The investigation also ignored documented efforts by students and community advocates to implement critical changes to address racially motivated violence at the school.

Limited interviews: The investigation only involved a fraction of the student victims and neglected the majority of victims, as well as other witnesses, school staff and community advocates who were at the scene on December 3. In a number of instances, those individuals interviewed expressed concern that they were denied a chance to tell their full stories and were cut off when they attempted to do so.

Limited attention to racial bias: While the investigation acknowledged the role of race in the assaults and harassment against Asian immigrant students, it does not recognize racial bias in the failure of the District to respond to that harassment and communicate with families and students. In particular, it does not address how the on-going harassment of Asian immigrant students and the school's failure to respond creates a hostile climate for Asian immigrant youth at South Philly.

Innuendo and rumors as deflection: I was particularly troubled by the use of innuendo and rumor to suggest that the events of Dec. 3rd may have been gang-related. Two pages are devoted to references to gang activity despite the fact that no credible evidence was presented other than the suggestion that group activity is "reminiscent of a street gang conflict" (p. 5). In any investigation, it's essential that innuendos, gossip and rumors be addressed and put to rest. It's troubling that a stereotype of urban youth is so casually deployed in this report to deflect attention away from school accountability.
Helen also points out how quick and eager Ackerman is to accept the findings and close the chapter on December 3, completely refusing to acknowledge the long history of violence at South Philly High, as well as staff and administrators complete failure to address and respond to this hostile environment. And with the report's limp recommendations, nothing's really going to change. Anyway, read Helen's full analysis here.

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