south philly high student's name cleared

As you know, this week at a School Reform Commission meeting, several students and community members testified about the December 3 violence at South Philadelphia High School, and the ongoing concerns that still exist at the school nearly three months after the attack.

Among those who testified was the grandmother of 17-year-old Hao Luu, a victim of violence in December who was unfairly forced out of South Philadelphia High School by the principal based on unsubstantiated rumors of gang violence. Read more about his situation here: The Fall Guy.

Thankfully, I just got news that Hao Luu has been redeemed. The Inquirer reports that city school officials formally acknowledged Luu was not connected to a street gang. The District will clear his name and conduct an investigation into the District's actions: District clears S. Phila. student of gang charge.

But the broader issue exists: Hao's treatment has been part of a pattern of District response since the December 3 violence that has deliberately misrepresented what happened and who is responsible for the violence at South Philadelphia High School. Specifically:
  • Failing to acknowledge that the attacks reflected anti-Asian, anti-immigrant violence: "The students who were attacked on December 3 were targeted because of the color of their skin, the shape of their eyes, and the accents in their voices. Period. . . Rather than rush to the scene and decry racial violence, express concern for the victims, and commit to combatting bias, the District response has been to distort and minimize - dismiss, deny, and obscure the scale and nature of these attacks." - Ellen Somekawa, Asian Americans United

  • Not listening to students: Tram Nguyen of Victim Witness Services of South Philadelphia said one of the key elements to crisis response is to provide "ventilation and validation" to victims, but testified that there were "repeated obstacles put in place to make it almost impossible for the students to share their stories. When they were allowed to talk they were also told how much their story was hurting other students at the school."

  • Failing to act against staff who behaved inappropriately: Student after student detailed failures of school staff from security personnel who ordered students out of the building, to a principal who escorted students into a dangerous situation to a school nurse who didn't want to call an ambulance. Student Dong Chen said: "We can identify those who ordered us to leave" but students weren't asked about the failures of adults.
  • While the violence at South Philadelphia High School made the headlines on December 3, the real story has been int he applling way the District has handled the situation since. Read lots more in this blog post at Young Philly Politics by Helen Gym of Asian Americans United: The District's South Philly High story unravels.

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